The possibilities of UAS to provide useful solutions, both to the industry and to people’s daily lives, are evident and new ideas and advances in the technical capabilities of unmanned aircraft and their systems emerge every day.
It is also evident, and we have been commenting on it in previous blogs, the need to gradually expand the operational possibilities of UAS, adapting the regulations and establishing reasonable requirements that take into account the peculiarities of this type of transport.
One of the current barriers for multiple applications is the impossibility of operating in BVLOS conditions, or in other words, in operations where the drone’s flight extends beyond the pilot’s view. Jobs for inspections of linear infrastructures, data collection in industrial plants, delivery of light packages and precision agriculture operations, including crop spraying, construction, etc., which are needed to obtain technical and economic viability, are increasingly in demand. conducting BVLOS operations.
It is interesting to see how they are dealing with this problem in the USA. The FAA has already granted more than a hundred permits to operate in BVLOS, but this represents only the approval of one in three applications.
To establish a more rigorous view of the possibilities of “beyond-sight” operations, the FAA commissioned the Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) with a report to make recommendations on performance-based regulatory requirements to standardize safe, safety BVLOS operations. scalable, economically viable and environmentally advantageous.
The result was a document of more than 400 pages delivered in the first semester of last year. The conclusions that have been put on the table and the methodological approach of the work are very interesting. The report was divided into two Phases. Phase 1 focused on analyzing the problem and understanding how to provide a practical and realistic solution to BVLOS flights, developing a methodology to follow. Phase 2 focused on establishing a risk framework, building on the results of Phase 1. It concluded, for example, by recommending UAS operations with a resulting kinetic energy of no more than 1,084,654 Joules to conduct BVLOS operations without exemptions.
A consideration that is included in the report, will surely bring controversies and future debates within the world of aviation. We refer to the consideration of the concept of “acceptable risk”. The ARC introduced in its risk analysis not only operational safety (this is a basic and essential issue for manned aviation) but also considered the social benefits.
What is this new approach due to? In my understanding, this issue is very important and key to the future development of UAS operations. An intentional deviation is produced when assessing and quantifying the risk of the operation of a drone with respect to the philosophy and approaches that have been used in traditional aviation. Here it is no longer a question of establishing as a horizon to avoid the worst possible case at any price, but rather that the social benefit comes into play. In risk analysis, a two-dimensional methodology is proposed where not only the probability of failure but also the consequences produced are considered. As members of the ARC have indicated: “With manned aviation, the consequence of an accident is disastrous because there are people on board. With UAS operation, that is not the case. Until now, we have never asked ourselves the question ‘What is an acceptable risk level?'”. The Committee itself responded to this question by recommending a consistent Acceptable Risk Level (ALR) for all types of UAS operations, encapsulated in a regulatory framework supported by an Operational Risk Matrix and an Automation Matrix, both of which use qualitative and quantitative approaches to assess air and ground risks to improve compliance and reduce risks to an acceptable level.
Let’s leave a more in-depth analysis of this extremely interesting report for another blog, which has not yet had a direct impact on UAS regulations.
What we want is that regulatory bodies clarify the regulatory environment for the use of drones to allow better and greater growth in operations that provide efficiency, security, economy and that energize the industry.