Secrecy News

Army Foresees Expanded Use of Drones in U.S. Airspace

The Army issued a new directive last week to govern the growing use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or “drones” within the United States for training missions and for “domestic operations.”

“The Army’s unmanned aircraft systems represent emerging technology that requires access to the National Airspace System,” wrote Army Secretary John M. McHugh in a January 13 memorandum.

Towards that end, the Army produced a revised policy on UAS operations to support “expanded UAS access to the National Airspace System.”  A copy of the new policy was obtained by Secrecy News.  See Army Directive 2012-02, January 13, 2012.

Much of the Army’s UAS activity will be devoted to UAS operator training conducted at or near military facilities, the policy indicates.  But beyond such training activities, the military also envisions a role for UAS in unspecified “domestic operations” in civilian airspace, according to a 2007 Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates domestic air traffic.

The 2007 Memorandum, which is appended to the new Army directive, was said to “allow, in accordance with applicable law, increased access for DoD UAS into the elements of the NAS [National Airspace System] outside of DoD-managed Restricted Areas or Warning Areas.”

The 2007 agreement was intended to “ensure DoD UAS assets have NAS access for domestic operations, including the War on Terror (WOT)…. This guidance applies to all DoD UAS, whether operated by Active, Reserve, National Guard, or other personnel.”

A prior edition of the Army’s “Unmanned Aircraft System Flight Regulations,” which will be updated to incorporate the latest policy, can be found on the Federation of American Scientists web site here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation last week filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information on domestic drone operations.

One thought on “Army Foresees Expanded Use of Drones in U.S. Airspace

  1. Having flown the southern US flyways many times, I know there is little traffic involved for drones flying the border. Using IFF should be about all they would need, plus altitude assignments.

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