Access 5 / UNITE

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Access 5 / UNITE
Important Note: Many Access5 and UNITE links on this page no longer work. This is because A5 was defunded in 2006 and UNITE has become somewhat less active in the UAS arena as an organizational entity. Both URL primary websites give 404 messages for both organizations - i.e - they are no longer operable. Therefore the links are perminently broken. Many still work because the documents are serevd from UAVM.com. Apologies.
ACCESS 5  - HALE UAV Flight in the National Airspace System within 5 Years - Project Terminated - See below for links to final reports. 

NASA received funding in 2004 to begin a project named Access 5, in conjunction with the UAV National Industry Team (UNITE) , that seeks unrestricted access to the NAS within five years for UAVs operating in the medium (MALE) to high (HALE) altitude NAS. Access 5 is comprised of several organizations including NASA, the FAA, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. Industry organizations include the RTCA SC-203,the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and UNITE a group of leading HALE vendors in the UAV pantheon including AeroVironment, Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The Access 5 website presents an FAQ, and pages describing What, Why Now, and Who for reference.(Organization Graphic

Access5 has officially been officially terminated with the Congress of the United States Officially ending funding. A final briefing of accomplisments was presented in Washington, DC on Feb 22, 2006 to a group of over 80 UAV flight professionals. In addition to the briefings given by the Project co-leads Jeff Bauer and Dave Buis, presentations were given by each of the Project’s six integrated product team leadersPolicy, Simulation, Technology, Specialty Engineering, Implementation and Flight as well as from the Systems Engineering and Integration Team (SEIT). The Access 5 presentation, by Northrop Grumman's Dennis Crosby, illustrates Access 5 goals and objectives.

UAVM chooses to maintain this historical information because although Access5 no longer exists its website is rich with information, history and references, and illustrates the difficulty of birthing new technology systems in a complex world of competing priorities and vested interests. The overall Access 5 - Concept of Operations is described here (CONOPS). This article describes those Access 5 targets to be normalized are UAV operations above flight level 180 (18,000 ft/ 5,500m) by 2008, and a global high altitude endurance HALE UAV standard by 2010. (see 4 step planAccess 5  is tasked to coordinated with the FAA and to the degree possible, conform its process and procedure recommendations to fit the existing FAA framework for airworthiness certification and to specify the use of certified pilots as UAV operators. 

The decline of Access5 was fairly rapid, starting somewhat before this protest letter  regarding whether Access 5 will continue operations past 2006 due to proposed budget cuts by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, was made visible to the public. Subsequently, NASA line item funding for Access 5 was approved in the 2006 NASA budget, passed by Congress in 2005, through 2006. Recent language in the conference report, reported to the floor, cuts further funding for Access 5 retroactively , to end in 2005. The conference report calls for a final Access 5 report on or about February 2006. The push to cut funding for Access 5 at one time appeared to stem from NASA Administrator Griffins attempts to refocus NASA on aeronautics and away from aeronautics and regulatory support functions that in his view should be funded by the FAA. Congress has intervened and has ended the Access 5 program by cutting off funding. It is unlikely that UNITE industry stakeholders will revive the program without government funding which has historically comprised about 75% of the total Access 5 program cost. This will likely set the introduction of UAVs into the US NAS off course.

One European equivalent of UNITE/Access 5 is the Euro UAV ICB tasked to ensure that operators of qualified civil, commercial and military UAS can fly their aircraft routinely, safely and reliably in nonsegregated European airspace.

The internal organizational matrix of Access 5, the Organizational Interagency relationship and the Four Step Access 5 plan to introduce HALE UAVs into the US NAS are depicted below. Click on the thumbnail to access the full schema.


Access 5 Organization Internal
US UAV Inter Agency Organization
Access 5 - Four Step Plan

UNITE is the UAV National Industry Team, an industry organization formed in 2002 by the confluence of major vendors who are stakeholders in HALE UAV introduction into the US National Airspace System. The vendors are AeroVironment, Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. The mission of UNITE is for HALE UAVs to gain routing access to the National Airspace System within 5 years (circa 2007). The UNITE website cites their mission to assist in "overcoming barriers to UAV flight" and avoiding "the potential for the United States to risk losing out on the economic benefits from the fast growing demand for UAVs and the services they provide."

This is a tacit admission that the US is behind in the global race to commercialize these technologies and risks being left behind unless these barriers are addressed. Intramurals and organizational issues could result in the cancellation of Access 5 after 2006 and this could compound the problem.