- Advocacy & Policy
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As the valuable public safety benefits of Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ civil and commercial applications become apparent, there is mounting pressure for the FAA to integrate such operations as soon as possible. This presents FAA with a host of “box-stretching” issues in meshing the needs of military and commercial UAS operations in the civil airspace. The challenges are significant.
UAS demand is not going to slow down, however, and integration is not discretionary: we must meet those challenges.
All facets of UAS development, manufacture and operations are represented in AIA’s membership of almost 300 manufacturing companies with more than 635,000 high-wage, highly skilled production employees. To better serve members’ interest in the tremendous UAS potential, AIA formed a UAS Subcommittee of its members in 2005 to promote a vibrant, competitive, global market for U.S. unmanned aircraft systems, products and services. And we start with the premise that all stakeholders agree to -- that UAS should perform under, and adhere to, the same safety standards as other aircraft.
AIA is therefore intent on facilitating FAA’s progress as it addresses the safety challenges as well as the challenges of accessing and leveraging data, making more test ranges available and developing a data-driven standards certification process. Industry is making the case to policy makers and legislators that more resources are needed to accomplish this goal in a timely manner.
UAS also illustrate the need for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). In the decades ahead, diverse new vehicles will be seeking operational access into civilian airspace. An effective process for certifying UAS operations will serve as a precedent for certification of other new vehicles, along with continual safety enhancements.
The critical technology to improve the reliability of UAS to enable convergence is the rapid implementation of NextGen and especially of Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast. I agree with Aurora Flight Sciences CEO John Langford that a crucial piece will be a light, inexpensive ADS-B device that can be put on everything that flies and thus will identify itself to the rest of the aviation world. Additionally, as Langford points out, we will need a hierarchical collision avoidance scheme based on ADS-B data.
Universal and mandatory adoption of ADS-B is the key technology to successful integration. As a rapidly evolving technology, UAS clearly have significant R&D needs, particularly as to National Airspace System integration modeling, sense and avoidance capabilities and secure communications links. AIA’s coordination with NASA to further that agency’s UAS work and resource acquisition is a major activity that has met with notable success.
To similar effect, the subcommittee interacts closely with DOD, especially the U.S. Air Force, as well as with AIA’s National Security Division. Resolving the issues relating to both defense and civil access to airspace is critical for UAS integration. AIA’s engagement with the Air Force intensified with a discussion between Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt at the AIA Board of Governors Meeting in November 2009. Moderated by John Langford, the discussion revealed areas for further collaboration between the two agencies, as well as highlighted FAA’s current concerns about safeguarding airspace safety while integrating UAS.
AIA industry experts coordinate effectively with international organizations and other deliberative bodies that affect the global UAS market and operations as well. Globally, through our International Coordinating Council, AIA is supporting the ICAO UAS Study Group efforts to amend most of the ICAO Annexes through AIA’s International Coordinating Council. Additionally, the subcommittee meets periodically with EuroControl and SESAR concerning action on UAS.
Working with FAA leadership of safety, certification and operations, our subcommittee has identified critical key areas for government-industry coordination, and for productive interagency leveraging of work and resources. Specifically, AIA members are currently advocating for certain advances that are important for progress.
These include FAA’s issuance of a UAS Integration Roadmap to identify issues and resources (including financial) necessary to approve UAS standards and procedures; formal inclusion of UAS safety data collection within existing collection, reporting and analyses programs; integration of UAS in all government NextGen efforts to define demonstration objectives and research beyond detect, sense and avoid capabilities; assurance of dependable, dedicated and sufficient FAA budgetary resources to meet the current and projected UAS demand, and FAA utilization of all resources to facilitate the integration process.
AIA has always supported a defined roadmap for addressing standards and certification, technology maturity, and other factors affecting the pace of UAS integration. While complicated by the diversity in size and complexity in UAS platforms, AIA advocates an introduction of UASs into civil airspace while ongoing development of standards, regulations and certification continues. The lessons learned during this phased approach can provide invaluable information and be applied during ongoing programs.
UAS is an exciting and growing sector of the aerospace industry. There are many challenges ahead to mesh the needs of military and commercial UAS with the requirements of operating in the civil airspace and AIA is committed to developing solutions for all UAS users. It’s important to step up smartly to these issues because the evolution of UASs is not going to slow down and their game-changing benefits are clear.