The civil aviation authority is responsible for, inter alia, ensuring aviation safety and protecting the public from aviation hazards. Operators of aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, are likewise responsible for operating safely. The rapid rise of UAS raises new challenges that were not considered in historic aviation regulatory frameworks. Before devising any regulatory framework for UAS operations, the regulator should understand and assess the UAS situation in his or her State.
Any aircraft intended to be flown without a pilot on board is an unmanned aircraft. They can be remotely and fully controlled from another place (ground, another aircraft, and space) or pre-programmed to conduct its flight without intervention.
As a regulator, recognizing the societal benefits of UAS and the need to facilitate operations in a safe manner are key and include: humanitarian efforts, search and rescue, firefighting, infrastructure monitoring and research and development (R&D). Operations limited to VLOS operations may limit benefits obtained by carrying loads or discharging substances (e.g. crop dusting, insect control).
The economic benefits of UAS are equally important however regardless of the potential societal and economic benefits their use may pose safety concerns for the regulator to consider. Recreational use of UAS may create additional concerns.
The physical environment of each State is different and the regulator has to consider UAS operational locations. The regulator has to manage the demand to operate UAS while considering the following aspects of the physical environment:
The regulator should identify key areas of concern and develop regulations that can be implemented effectively. A State’s regulations should cover all UAS operations in domestic airspace such that the UAS regulatory framework to be developed is compatible with existing aviation regulations as well as those of other sectors. This should include:
As the number of UAS operations continue to increase, States should also start to consider the safe development and deployment of UAS Traffic Management systems. UTM guidance material can be found at: https://www.icao.int/safety/UA/Pages/UTM-Guidance.aspx.