The business aviation community had a chance to discuss its concerns over the likelihood of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) flying in civil airspace during a conference session at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition last week. Devising rules that ensure safety while impeding neither progress nor prosperity is the main challenge, the audience heard. The bottom line is that the integration of RPAS into the same airspace as other commercial traffic is only a question of time.
Among the interested parties represented were the Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (UVSI) and AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) lobbying associations, Eurocontrol’s Sesar program, the European Aviation Safety Agency and RPAS manufacturer SenseFly.
“We have to create universally accepted rules,” Peter van Blyenburgh, UVSI president, emphasized. A number of countries (15 in Europe) have started creating rules, without any harmonization, he said. Those proliferating rules do not even include a pilot approval process, he noted. Yet, there are over 3,000 commercial operators in Europe–half of them in France.
The Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) is striving to harmonize the rules worldwide. There are 28 members in JARUS, including two thirds of Europe and countries like the U.S., Australia and Russia. But all they can do is make recommendations, as opposed to binding regulation. Van Blyenburgh hinted that China has been invited to participate. “Chinese manufacturers produce 10,000 to 20,000 RPAS a month,” he pointed out.
Eric Sivel, an official with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), is the JARUS chairman. “We have chosen to go for performance-based rules because we are walking in uncharted territory,” he said. EASA prepared what then became the so-called Riga declaration, defining “how we are going to regulate RPAS,” he went on.
A key aspect has been “detect and avoid” (or “sense and avoid”), derived from the “see and avoid” notion. “Today’s technology allows RPAS flights in non-segregated airspace; sense-and avoid will be part of the Sesar 2020 research effort,” Denis Koehl, a Sesar senior advisor, said. Paul Lange, a U.S. lawyer, expressed a diverging view by asserting the technology “is not there yet to ensure the same level of separation as conventional, manned aircraft.” There is no commercial operator in the U.S. yet.
The European Defense Agency’s MIDCAS project, due to be completed this year, stands to benefit civilRPAS operations because it has demonstrated how larger aircraft can operate, ASD’s Jean-Louis Roch said. He stressed that a distinction should be made between two kinds of RPAS: cooperative ones (i.e. having a transponder on board) and non-cooperative ones. The latter need sensors like radars and cameras to be detected and this has been demonstrated, too.
To prevent some RPAS from flying into prohibited airspace, geofencing is being considered. EASA’s Sivel pitched the idea of a cell phone-type chip that would enable geofencing and owner identification.
EASA wants to address the most urgent issues via a three-pronged approach, depending on the level of risk, Sivel went on. In one of them, “specific-risk operations,” the operator will be asked to identify the risk and mitigate it. In this situation flying a RPAS over a city may be allowed, providing the operator has solutions to protect the public.
Source: AIN Online