The civil aviation authority is responsible for 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.
The rapid growth of the UAS industry has resulted in significant and multiple challenges for States to deliver their mandate and meet the needs and expectations of the industry. Such challenges include:
The regulator should identify key areas of concern and craft regulations that can be implemented effectively. A State’s regulations should cover all UAS operations in domestic airspace such that the UAS regulatory framework is compatible with existing aviation regulations as well as those of other sectors:
A risk-based approach to regulating UAS could focus on two principal risks: the risk of a UA causing a fatality to persons or damaging property on the ground and the risk of collision between a UA and another airspace user in any phase of flight.
A risk assessment would need to take into account operational complexity factors, including the size of the aircraft, location, altitudes, airspace classification and complexity of the operation, day/night operations and mitigations that may be imposed. For example:
Mitigation measures may concern the UAS technology (conspicuity paint schemes or strobe lights for visibility), the remote pilot competencies, operational procedures or operator requirements (SMS, manuals etc.).
ICAO SMS (pdf)
It is recommended that, provided the operations are within the specified conditions, operations can take place with no authorization required by the regulatory authority. Examples of these specified operations may include the following:
This category of operations could, for example, consist of VLOS operations utilizing a low weight or low energy UA with negligible payload capacity. Operations in this category would be unlikely to result in a fatality or cause serious injury to persons on the ground and would be subject to fewer regulatory requirements although some operational restrictions would be required to protect other airspace users e.g. altitude restrictions. Remote pilots may require basic aviation knowledge and the UA could be subject to simple identification requirements and reporting requirements.
This category of operations could, for example, consist of VLOS operations utilizing a larger and/or heavier aircraft with more payload capacity and with the potential to cause fatality or injury to persons on the ground or other airspace users. More stringent regulatory requirements would be required with a focus on operational limitations such as the establishment of airspace restrictions, altitudes, airspeed, proximity to aerodromes and congested/populated areas. Remote pilots may require basic aviation knowledge and the UA could be subject to simple identification and reporting requirements. This category of operations could include, with appropriate mitigations, BVLOS operations in more complex environments, such as within controlled airspace, over populated areas and at or near aerodromes. These operations would require significant risk mitigation measures, for example: