Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Amazon Proposes Drone-Only Airspace Layer
To accommodate the increasing interest of tech companies in commercial drone operations, technology giant Amazon hopes to secure a designated section in airspace for its very own delivery capabilities. Last week at NASA's Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management (UTM) Convention, the company proposed a change to the national airspace system through which commercial drones would be given sole access to altitudes from the ground up to 400 ft agl. Manned aircraft would be restricted to altitudes of 500 ft or higher, creating a 100-foot buffer zone. Under the proposed system, low-speed drone traffic following line-of-sight restrictions would fly at altitudes below 200 ft while high-speed autonomous drones—such as the ones Amazon hopes will deliver some of its packages—would occupy the space between 200 and 400 ft. The proposed system would have little impact on fixed-wing operations, which already must remain higher than 500 ft above most populated areas. Now the question remains as to how this would affect commercial helicopter operations, which often are conducted closer to the ground.