Look Out, Watch Out, There’s a… UAS About!
The axiom that there are never any old and bold pilots is insidiously linked to the aphorism that you have to fill the bucket of experience before your bucket of luck runs out from the mistakes you make. But to become that old pilot and cross that bridge between inexperience and wisdom with that full bucket, now requires you grappling with the relatively new boy on the block; Unmanned Aerial Surveillance (UAS).
UAS compromises your luck by failing to look out, contrary to what your experience tells you. Why so, because UAS are experts at a focused and persistent stare down at their target; unblinking in their task with no thought for other air users. They just don’t naturally look up and out, nor scan around for others.
UAS (regardless of size) also have scant regard for your incursion into their airspace; with with great computerised confidence they know exactly where they are with uncanny precision, and don’t care if you are also there. Their self preservation is non-existent: it was their designated airspace in the programme they received, so they will complete their course precisely. So next time you pass through an UAS ‘Red Flagged’ zone of any nature, or don’t clear formally through UAS Restricted Operation Zone (ROZ), you put yourself in harms way with that UAS. Regardless of air navigation laws, UAS will decline the common courtesy to pass ‘port to port’ down your side, or considering protecting your ‘starboard’ side. UAS will forge on oblivious of your decisions and manoeuvres in its airspace, and you will be shocked at its complete lack of any prompt response when you see your collision course with it.
Whereas you are certainly alert to the significance of flying into a ‘Red Flagged’ live range area if it has Artillery ordnance flying through it, the same due regard to UAS seems to be absent. Presumably in your long drop down list for mission planning, by the time you have come to ‘U’ for UAS you have lost the will to live, and that could be your undoing if you don’t register the UAS activity and it’s ROZ for that future point in your long and probably disrupted flying trip.
And finally how many of you are aware that Hermes 450 is so named because it weighs 450kgs. That and its size give you a very clear indication of the catastrophic damage it will do to flesh and bone in any collision. But give some thought to the small Mini UAS. Desert Hawk 3 weighs 4kgs and T-Hawk weighs 9kgs and they cut about faster than you think and are operating, dependant on terrain, between 50 to 1,000ft above the ground. If they hit, you will certainly not regard them as light weight hand held objects, because you will realise that it’s the kinetic energy that kills based on the square of the velocity; and your closing velocity is always going to be above that of the UAS of 55 kts. It’s a case of the sums do add up to a phenomenal impact on you.
The message is be well aware that UAS don’t look up and out and scan for you in their dedicated airspace; just don’t be there!