Five years of fighting and a shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration have finally resulted in Congress passing a bill that could change the experience of flying commercial as we know it. The skies are going to get a lot more tech-y, to put it very simply.
The bill passed the Senate on Monday by a vote of 75-20, after having gone through successfully in the House of Representatives last week, says the Associated Press (via the Chicago Tribune). It will push the nation’s switch from radar to GPS-based air traffic control, as well as giving freer reign to unmanned drones buzzing about in the sky watching who knows what.
The FAA will get $63.4 billion in the deal over four years, $11 billion of which will be used to upgrade the air traffic control system. By June 2015, new procedures are scheduled to be in place to help airplanes land faster and more precisely using GPS at the nation’s 35 airports.
That means instead of the flight attendant announcing the start of a plane’s descent, followed by 40 or so minutes of waiting as the plane gradually steps down to lower altitudes, planes will swoop in more steeply to land. It also means planes can take off and land closer together and more frequently, which should speed everything up and hopefully, cause fewer delays.
The other aspect of the bill allows remote-controlled drones to buzz about 400 feet above ground and fly into commercial airspace, whereas before they were restricted to government and military airspace, and they’re restricted from low altitudes near airports and urban centers. Just keeping an eye on things, eh?
Congress OKs FAA bill allowing drones in U.S., GPS air traffic control [Chicago Tribune]