WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a Full Committee hearing on Unmanned Aerial Systems in Alaska: A Framework for the Nation to be held on Thursday, July 13, 2006, at 2:30 p.m. in room 562 of the Dirksen Building. Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will preside.
Ted StevensSenatorOpening Statement of Chairman Ted StevensUAS Hearing – July 13, 2006Unmanned aircraft have been used by the military since World War II. In the Air Corp., in which I served, they used B-24s loaded with explosives and remotely piloted them into Nazi Germany. Back then pilots took off in these aircraft and jumped out once they were airborne. The planes would then be remotely flown to the target. In fact my good friend Senator Kennedy’s oldest brother, Joe, died in one of those aircraft.Today unmanned aircraft can fly by themselves and are playing an integral part in fighting the war on terror. This is a Raven. It weighs, I’m told, about four pounds and there are about 4,000 of them deployed worldwide for the war on terror, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. Young sergeants launch and fly these UAVs. First responders like the Forest Service fire fighters who use systems like this are required to file a flight plan and to have approval of the FAA. The Global Hawk, which has a 130 foot wingspan and weighs over 32,000 pounds, flies up to 60,000 feet. It is certified for flight operations and is cleared the same way as this Raven would be cleared.We’ve asked the FAA to testify today and we hope that we can work with all of you and work together to get these UAVs classified and approved for non-military use. More importantly we hold this hearing today so we can discuss how we can amend aircraft services to help the missions of NOAA and the Coast Guard, two very important agencies whose mission is to protect and save lives, which comes under the logistics of this committee. From climate research to search and rescue, there are boundless opportunities for these unmanned aircraft to help these agencies accomplish their missions. It is my hope that we will be able to discuss whether Alaska and the Pacific region are the best place to test these unmanned aircraft systems.Q&A at UAS HearingSenator Stevens: I am sure the Co-chairman is on his way, but I also am sure he wouldn’t mind if I start and ask some questions. First, let me ask all of you a question. Without any question, we are dealing with a system that will not only be unmanned in terms of crew, but there also would be no people on board right? We understand that this is not dealing with any concept of a new system that would be unmanned as far as the crew situation is concerned, but wouldn’t carry any passengers at any time? With that, Mr. Sabatini, your regulations would ensure that, right?Mr. Sabatini: Yes, sir, absolutely.Senator Stevens: Admiral Lautenbacher, we discussed the experiment in Alaska and you mentioned in your statement, one of the problems developed was the lack of deicing equipment on these bergs. Has anyone looked into the problem yet in terms that the deicing equipment might be necessary to operate these things in all weather conditions?Admiral Lautenbacher: I’m not aware that anyone looked specifically into it in the tests we’ve done, but I am confident that could be added into it. We’ve looked at operating out of Alaska bases, and we think that the issues that have come up can be dealt with basically. So I don’t see any reason why you can’t deal with a problem like that as you do with a manned aircraft in a way that could allow us to operate and certainly if we operated out of -- for instance, we could complete 90 percent of our mission that we need, just today, with the equipment.Senator Stevens: Did your colleague, Mr. Madden, look into that problem?Mr. Madden: We raised the issue of under what conditions, what different types of UAS platforms could work, but said we have to go beyond raising the issue and actually test things, so there are large seasons of the year in which icing is not a problem, but the participants at our Alaskan workshop did go into knowing that there could be issues with icing and that would be one of the early things we would have to test.Senator Stevens: Well, let me ask you Mr. Sabatini, I had a conference this last recess following the 4th of July in Alaska with people who are concerned with aviation safety. We have been very much involved with aviation safety, and I think we have accomplished a great deal in a very short period of time, but they mention there is no consideration being given to warning systems to prevent these unmanned aircraft from coming into the airspace of civil aviation that is flying on approved flight plans, general or commercial. Have you all looked into that now? Are we going to some kind of warning device on this so the collision avoidance systems of small aircraft, or the commercial aircraft would work?Mr. Sabatini: Well, Mr. Chairman that is a very complex subject. I would tell you that there is not today a warning system we’ve required of what those aircraft that have been approved to operate either under experimental certificate or under a public use certificate of authorization because of what was asked to be done, however, there certainly is technology such as TCAS that can be put on board those aircraft that would alert other manned aircraft that there is another intruder, so to speak, in that airspace.Senator Stevens: Well, I’ve flown TCAS. I’m not sure it will pick up something that small will it? Do you know?Mr. Sabatini: Well, I would say that as I mentioned in my testimony, Mr. Chairman, the limitation is on a piece of equipment like what we have here, the Raven, probably the weight of the TCAS itself is greater than the weight of this aircraft, and therefore, some aircraft such as these could not possibly carry the kind of TCAS equipment if we consider that warning to others that would make it feasible. This just simply could not be done.Mr. Madden: We address that both in the workshop and in some conversations afterwards. We would see a number of applications where there would be listing temporary flight restrictions for civil authorities such as around fires or volcanoes, so that operating inside of those temporary flight restrictions would minimize or eliminate that conflict.Senator Stevens: What do you think Admiral Justice?Admiral Justice: Sir, I would add two points. We know that there is one industry, one builder, who is looking and on the larger predator-type aircraft, they are looking into deicing. So that is under development. We know that for a fact. And then as well, on a smaller, in the Coast Guard, what we are looking to purchase for our ships is larger than that. It is more medium-sized and again, from a collision avoidance perspective, we will be –- that will be developed. That is part of our -- we are kind of pacing ourselves for delivery of those vehicles because that technology is being developed. But it will all come together and it will have to meet Mr. Sabatini’s requirements here.Senator Stevens: Just this last weekend, I saw two Eagles that were bigger than that plane. TCAS would not be able to tell if it was that small would it? I am saying, don’t you think you should require putting something on this one that will emit a signal and it would be picked up?Mr. Sabatini: That has been a challenge, Mr. Chairman. The technology that would be available to allow something like this Raven to be sensed by other aircraft, and that technology is not available for a small device like this one. It could potentially be available for a larger aircraft that can carry that kind of weight and cause itself to be sensed by other manned aircraft so that in that sense, that’s a warning to others that there is another craft in their presence, and therefore, a TCAS type of arrangement could cause a warning to other manned aircraft. However, an unmanned aircraft, that technology does not exist today to allow the detection, the sensing and avoiding and the maneuvering that needs to be done to avoid other aircraft. And for that reason, we work with either the Government agency or the applicant as a civilian to establish the parameters within which they will operate, the restrictions that will be imposed upon those operations.Senator Stevens: Admiral Lautenbacher, I think the staff told me about the use of one of these in terms of global climate change monitoring. It would drop sensors along the ice, or along either onshore or offshore, and pick up some measurements later. Now, what size -- if that’s true, what size UAV would be used for that?Admiral Lautenbacher: This would be a much larger UAV.Senator Stevens: Predator size?Admiral Lautenbacher: It could be predator size, it could be a little smaller, but generally a predator that could go on a long mission and carry dropsondes or even carry smaller UAVs with it and launch them at a particular point. So there is a variety of things that could be done.Senator Stevens: Well let me ask you this. Have any of your agencies studied to determine what changes in existing law would be required to legalize the use of these concepts and put the restrictions on them, or give them the authority to put the restrictions on them that would be necessary in the interest of safety? It would probably be you to start with, Mr. Sabatini.Mr. Sabatini: Yes, Mr. Chairman, we have regulations today that address operation in the NAS. Unmanned aircraft cannot meet those regulations today. The challenge that we face and we are working through the RTCA which is a Federal Advisory Committee that has brought in industry to participate in special committee 203 to address the issue of detect, sense, avoid, command and control. So they are in the process of establishing what those standards might be so that industry can then begin to build avionics that are capable of providing what unmanned aircraft cannot do today. And that is operating within the NAS and is able to comply with FAR Part 91, the general operating rules in the airspace.Senator Stevens: One of the groups I was with was float plane pilots. They point out that very few of those planes have any TCAS equipment on them. They are flying normally around 1,000 feet or below, and they believe that if we are going to authorize the use of these in Alaska, that we ought to have some zones like we have for military zones where -- or at least ought to be some advance notice to pilots before, considerably before they are used. Now, have any of you looked into those problems of the interference with general aviation, particularly aviation that is related to just local use? I mean, can we develop something for instance, let’s say you can’t fly these things within 20 miles of a municipality or something like that?Mr. Sabatini: Well, we already have, so let me start by saying those devices cannot access the airspace today unless they receive approval.Senator Stevens: But they are. You pre-approved them right?Mr. Sabatini: They have to be approved by the FAA and when they are finally approved by the FAA, they are allowed to do so under very controlled circumstances. There will be restrictions. For example, the one that operates along the Arizona/New Mexico Border, when they are authorized to operate, there are hours that are published that they do operate when they are going to access that airspace which I believe starts at about 12,000 feet to about 15,000 feet. From their base of operation, to gaining access and entry into that airspace in a specific period of time. It is announced by way of notes to airmen that this aircraft will be operating during these times and will be proceeding along this track to access that airspace, and once it’s, that airspace, it’s published to the community, the aviation community, they are not permitted in that airspace while it hot so-to-speak.Senator Stevens: That is sort of self-defeating. That tells people who are trying to watch, that they are going to be there --Mr. Sabatini: We are not the ones to determine that, so we are the ones that allow safe operations by putting in the kinds of restrictions to permit those operations.Senator Stevens: Well, I’m told that the FAA is looking into for their use in disaster areas such as Katrina and other such disasters. Is that right? Do you have any special regulations yet for that?Mr. Sabatini: Well the regulations continue to be the same; however, we have already issued a Certificate of Authorization to DoD in anticipation of any potential new Katrina-type hurricane that would position them to be ready to operate within the confines of what has been approved for them to do.Senator Stevens: I am interested in the concept of adding these systems to existing systems such as weather monitoring, volcano monitoring, and firefighting monitoring. Is that feasible Mr. Madden?Mr. Madden: Yes, sir it is and I think there are ways in which we could minimize or eliminate the conflict with general aviation. I mean, I have current my private pilot license in Alaska and every hour I’ve flown as pilot in command is in Alaska. There could be something like not just having a corridor for these, but to have a cylinder or a cone for them to get at altitudes that operate above general aviation. That would put a great challenge for the technology, for sensing, to be done at flight levels at 18,000 feet or so, and where it’s positive control. It would have more applicability to the larger unmanned aerial systems than the small ones like this. But it’s fairly well documented where general aviation flies for what purposes for what types of gear, and what altitude. And having flown in Alaska, I know there are 50,000 Bald Eagles in that state and I am more concerned with hitting an eagle than hitting another airplane.Senator Stevens: They are all right. Mr. Sabatini, how do you propose to coordinate these with the air controllers at airports that have general applicability?Mr. Sabatini: Well whether it’s an experimental or worthiness certificate that is issued, or whether it’s a certificate of authorization, it’s done with complete coordination with the air traffic organization, so the limitations and the restrictions spell out in great detail the operation and who they need to contact almost to the point that this is the frequency of which you will contact, the approach control, etc. It’s highly coordinated, Mr. Chairman.Senator Stevens: For the two admirals, as you know, we have been very interested in the system for the protection of our fisheries, particularly along the maritime boundary and to protect marine sanctuaries such as you described Admiral, off of Hawaii, but clearly, we had a test as I mentioned, but are you still pursuing that idea to have vessels using UAVs? If so, can you tell us what you are doing?Admiral Lautenbacher: Yes, sir, we have tried and experimented and run tests with predator-size vehicle and we’ve also run tests with a smaller vehicle in the humpback sanctuary for looking at marine mammals and endangered species and that sort of thing, and we think it’s a very promising method for the longer times that you can be watching and do it remotely. It has a great deal of appeal to us in terms of a practical way of monitoring fisheries and marine mammals.Senator Stevens: I was recently briefed on the military use of UAVs in the war zone and I was very surprised by the manpower that is necessary to monitor the UAVs. It actually takes more than to monitor a manned aircraft. Are you aware of that?Admiral Lautenbacher: Yes, sir. I’ve been out on these tests or been involved in the tests, and I would have to say, remember we’re current at the front end of the technology in learning how to use and control, but yes, you have to have pilots that fly the airplanes and consoles and communication equipment and communication video links and it’s not without its technical complexity. But I think as in all other areas, it’s going to get better as we try it more.Senator Stevens: It is cost-effective? Compared to you sending a cutter out there isn’t it?Admiral Justice: Sir, I would say its part of the system. It’s needed. It helps monitor, it helps detect. It may help sort at some point. We’re not quite there with the sorting piece yet. At the end of the day, you know, the apprehension and the interdiction piece are going to be by a cutter. But it will help us use that cutter smarter. So again, the Coast Guard is committed to its technology improvements with them. We will work with a team here to each of us.Senator Stevens: And what is the timeline for that?Admiral Justice: Realistically, we’re mirroring, you mentioned the three to four development of the collision avoidance system on the, we call it RVUAV, so we have got a three to four year window for our -- the ones of our cutters that will replace a helicopter. It’s a three to four year window to roll those out. Right now, Coast Guard’s plan with the big ones is out there. We don’t -- we’re not signed up to use them until 2016. With that said, as we see the technology improving, we have been part of the test, we understand the problems, and we appreciate the problems. We have problems to overcome, and will help with that. We are definitely ready to move. We would be ready to move earlier in using this technology full-time and on our missions.Senator Stevens: All right, are you far enough along to approach the UAV manufactures about equipment you need such as deicing equipment and monitoring equipment?Admiral Justice: We have and they are working with us on that, yes sir. We’re there with that.Senator Stevens: All right, I believe I think Senator Inouye has been held up on the floor, so I’m going to suggest that we keep the record open, and he and the staff may submit you some questions on the subject today. My last question for you, Mr. Madden, you mention this airport that you envision having a UAV servicing station. How far along are you in developing that idea?Mr. Madden: It’s a concept to try to have a place where it could integrate flight operations, data acquisition and data analysis. It has not gone beyond the concept stage. I have talked with the State Department of Transportation about what airports could provide this, what space is available and meeting the tower communications. They are ready and willing and able to meet with any agency about site selection. There are also a number of private sectors owned and operated along the pipeline that have said they would agree to be either alternate airports, or forward deployed airports as well.Senator Stevens: Well, I appreciate it. If you would let us know if you have any suggestions as to changes in existing law to facilitate the subject we’ve discussed, and I appreciate also if you would respond to the questions that may be submitted by other members of the Committee, particularly the Co-Chairman. I do thank you for your participation and apologize for the Senate schedule holding you here this long is unconscionable but unavoidable, so thank you very much.Mr. Madden: Thank you, sir.
John MaddenDirectorState of Alaska Department of Homeland Security
Nicholas SabatiniAssociate Administrator for Aviation SafetyFederal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Rear Admiral Wayne JusticeAssistant Commandant for ResponseUnited States Coast Guard