Not Alone Up There
On a flight from Van Nuys California to Lake Havasu City Arizona in an Aviat Husky I had a first time experience. I was flying over the high desert between Mohave and Victorville when I heard the call over the radio. “UAV (unintelligible) traffic one O’clock, two miles, a Husky at seven thousand five hundred”. Right then I thought “Damn, the air traffic controller just told an unmanned aerial vehicle that I was only two miles away from it at the same altitude”. I have heard this call a thousand times but there has always been a pilot in the other airplane carrying the same responsibilities and consequences of “see and avoid”.
There is always other airplanes in the sky and it almost never bothers me when there is a traffic proximity call, but this time was different. I was sharing the sky with a camera with wings, that had the potential to take me out of the sky if we shared the same airspace at the same time. What is the field of vision of these UAV’s? How quickly can they scan side to side to check for other aircraft? How much of the sky are they scanning during any given minute? Pilot are trained to always keep their head on a swivel, I would imagine this type of movement would make a UAV pilot sick from staring at a constantly moving screen. Though the chances of a mid-air are minute, I was much more concerned when the other aircraft had nobody onboard. What is the worst that happens to the UAV if he fails to see and avoid me, does he lose his job? I am an avid supporter of UAV’s and the benefits they provide all of us but this experience has given me a new concern for sharing uncontrolled airspace with unmanned aerial vehicles. I will use this as an opportunity to learn more about UAV’s and how they “see and avoid” other airplanes.