1. Background and General Recommendations

1.1 Understanding the Situation

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.

  • UA may be used as toys or designed for professional users with weights ranging from the tens of grams to thousands of kilograms
  • UA may carry cargo, cameras and other sensors e.g. Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) or infrared
  • Operating modes can range from simple visual line-of-sight (VLOS) to beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations to automatic networked swarms flying in formation


1.2 What Are They Doing?

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.


1.3 Where Are They Flying?

  • Proximity to aerodromes, controlled airspace, or busy air routes. For example, Singapore is under controlled airspace with busy air traffic
  • Uncontrolled airspace
  • Urbanized/ densely populated vs rural/ open areas. For example, Paris or New York City versus open farmlands or Australian outback
  • Suitability of UAS operations near national parks, restricted/prohibited areas and sensitive sites
  • Operations over the high seas, which are the responsiblity of the State of Registry

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:


1.4 Who is flying?

  • Private individuals and one-person organization
  • Small to medium size businesses and organizations, including hobbyists and recreational users;
  • Multinational businesses and organizations
  • State aircraft, such as first responders, search and rescue, etc.
  • In the future, this could also include aircraft used for Urban Air Mobility


1.5 Other considerations and recommendations:

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:

  • Frequency spectrum – many States regulate the frequency bands that a product may use; this would include the command and control (C2) link
  • Transportation of dangerous goods and other dangerous materials e.g. medical samples
  • Rights of land/property owners/trespass rules/privacy concerns
  • Criminal codes
  • Custom and immigration concerns
  • Product safety - product safety legislation may apply to UAS manufactured as toy/electronic devices

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.

Unmanned Aircraft Operations

Unmanned aircraft can be accommodated in airspace with appropriate consideration given to the risk they pose to other aircraft, people and property on the ground. This means that every UA/UAS has to be considered individually regarding the purpose of the intended operation (eg. pipeline or fisheries monitoring, sports event filming or for leisure), who will operate it? (eg. a trained individual, a 14 year old child who received it as a birthday gift, etc.), where will it be operated? (eg. remote location, urban environment, near an aerodrome, etc.), along with the weight and speed of the UA (consider the kinetic energy if it were to hit something). With all this information the CAA can determine the risk to other aircraft, people and property. 
Although the term ‘DRONE” is commonly used to refer to these aircraft, States are encouraged to use the technically correct terms of unmanned aircraft (UA) or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), as applicable, when developing their regulations, guidance materials and outreach products, in order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.
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