The operation of potentially large numbers of drones at low levels, mostly outside airspace where there is any formal ATC, presents a number of significant operational challenges. For this reason, it is necessary to establish a clear concept of operations that is understood and agreed by all stakeholders. The research will include identification of how drones can be operated safely in non-nominal situations, without posing an unacceptable danger to other airspace users, or people and property on the ground.
As with any disruptive technology or concept, the reaction from society will vary enormously depending on the perspective of the individual or organisation. Furthermore, the fundamental rights of European citizens must be protected from intrusion by drone operators. Consequently, this project will also examine non-aviation aspects of drone operations, to identify key issues for society and to offer solutions to ease social acceptance.
In reference to the SJU Annual Work Programme 2016, this topic covers Section 3.5.3 (e) 1) topics a) to d).
This project addresses those drones that are expected to operate in the VLL environment, covering many types of aerial activity, including leisure, remote infrastructure inspection, rural operations, flights in densely-populated and urban areas, and flights near protected sites, such as airports or nuclear power stations. Although manned aviation operating in this airspace is typically uncontrolled, it will be necessary to address how drones might operate within controlled airspace near, for example, airfields. In addition, VLL airspace is also used by other classes of airspace users, such as military aircraft, rotorcraft, balloons, hang-gliders, micro-lights, parachutists and so on. The Concept must enable safe interaction with all these users. Operational considerations must include contingencies and emergencies, and societal issues must also be addressed.
This topic is not intended to address particular technological solutions, which are covered in ‘WA-2: Technical Issues’ in this Call. However, it will be necessary for the project to identify where technical developments are needed, and to quantify, as far as possible, the high-level safety and performance requirements of that technology needed to implement the Concept. The project should not propose specific technology choices.
Since the Operational Concept is the foundation upon which additional drone research work will be conducted, the project will produce of a set of reference scenarios that illustrate the wide variety of drone operations that could be anticipated.
The development of the concept of operations should take into account work already undertaken around the world on this subject in order to promote relevant global harmonisation, in particular NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) research project, and work being undertaken by JARUS. The project should make clear any assumptions made about the volumes of traffic used to define the concept and any implications for its viability if those assumptions are inaccurate.
The generation of a successful and accepted concept of operations for the operation of drones is a prerequisite for the development of standards, regulations, management and control agencies, operating procedures and business plans. It will also provide the foundation upon which technical and infrastructure developments can be made in order to allow the drone market to achieve its full potential.