It is well known that the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System remains one of the most urging priorities for the Federal Aviation Administration. As the industry grapples with the challenges presented by technological limitations, regulatory agencies, and safety concerns, it is important to ensure that the finer details of consumer and operator acceptance are considered. Lakshmi Vempati's research on pilot's willingness to operate in a fully integrated NAS with UAS explores this topic in detail.
No matter how advanced UAS are currently, they will have to cooperate safely and efficiently with the manned aircraft that currently occupy the airspace. Therefore, it is important to consider the opinions and the willingness of manned aircraft pilots to operate in this dynamic environment. According to Vempati, "there is little or no research on pilot's perceptions on their willingness to operate an aircraft in UAS integrated airspace and airports". The purpose of this study was to identify the effects of UAS integration and operations and what relationship they have with airspace classifications and pilot's perspectives on operating within this environment.
A mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) identified that there was a strong correlation between pilot acceptance and the level of UAS integration and airspace classifications. The most significant factors were segregation and airspace control. Meaning that the less control Air Traffic Control had over a respective airspace, and the less regulated a class of airspace was, the less likely a manned aircraft pilot was willing to operate in that environment (Vempati, 2020).
This shows that pilots have significant concerns over the current regulatory environment that presides over the Part 107 community. Requirements pertaining to operator experience and training as well as aircraft certification and airworthiness present many concerns in terms of situational awareness and risk management for pilots that have spent their entire careers navigating the complex and dynamic regulatory environment that the FAA has put in place for them. As the industry continues to embrace UAS technology, it will be essential to consult the opinions of those that currently man the airspace, and have the most intimate understanding of operating within its environment.
Vempati, L. (2020). Pilot’s willingness to operate in unmanned aircraft system integrated airspace. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.