Thursday, September 6, 2012

Will Texas Skies Soon Be Full of Drones?

According to the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), Texas has seven (7) locations that have been designated as potential basing locations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [i.e. drones] (p. 8 ff.).

The table below gives information on the types of drones that are proposed for basing at each location.

BASE Predator/Reaper type Shadow/Raven type Other
Fort Bliss MQ-1C RQ-11B, RQ-7B
Fort Hood MQ-1C, MQ-5 RQ-7B, RQ-11B, RQ--21B PUMA
Brownsville RQ-11B
Fort Worth RQ-11B
Gatesville Viking
Ellington see note

Note: Ellington has been designated as a Predator Operations Complex, with TFI-ALTER UAV hangar (Report - p. 14).

The report further discloses that the drones are operated from five (5) bases -- Brownsville (RQ-llB Raven), Camp Bowie (RQ-llB Raven), Camp Swift (RQ-llB Raven), Fort Bliss (RQ-7B Shadow), and Fort Hood (MQ-5 HUNTER, RQ-7B Shadow) -- under the status "Locations Requiring COAs [Certificate of Waiver or Authorization]". ("Locations where the Army currently conducts operations outside of Restricted Areas that require a COA from the FAA. In the majority of these locations, the purpose of the COA is to transition from the launch site to adjacent Restricted Areas. Additionally, the Raven can be operated using DoD-FAA agreed-to Class G airspace notification procedures for flights flown over Government-owned or -leased land." (DOD report, p. 20))

Are the skies over Texas big enough to hold all these drones?