Silas is an aviation profession who obtained a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics and Safety.
Congress directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to integrate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the airspace. The FAA 107 regulation requires the pilot to not fly over people. But the regulation allows a pilot to submit for a waiver to approve operations over humans. However, the FAA approves waivers, which increases risk to persons and property on the ground.
This article summarizes UAS operations and how the FAA needs to accept a certification baseline to expand UAS flights over people. Under the current 107 regulation, operation over people must move away from waivers and accept a certification baseline to lower the risk-level.
Today, political pressure is pushing the FAA to allow operations over people. This becomes problematic, as the equipment is non-certified and many hobby build components are used to build unmanned aircraft. This presents a problem as the technology is not certified, and the FAA has not developed the standard for equipment used to allow operations over people. Certification helps define the level of predictability and reliability concerning the technology failure rate. Certifying the equipment reduces the risk by knowing the probability and reliability of the equipment. This suggests the UAS could fail at any moment.
In this case, a dilemma presents itself as the FAA allows operations over people with uncertified technology. Instead, the FAA must develop methods to reduce the level of risk to protect humans on the ground. Thus, equipment certification presents a higher predictability and reliability rate required for flights over people.
Unmanned Aviation Safety Plan
Having an aviation safety plan is important to note as operations within the national airspace have gone under significant change. By enabling UAS operations, it must strengthen the national airspace with high-level policies and procedures for a wide sector of aviation. The safety plan must show targeted safety objectives and initiatives to make sure enough coordination of complementary safety activities exists between stakeholders (ICAO, 2018). In 2015, the Unmanned Aircraft Advisory Group developed guidance material. The group expedited developing provisions to regulate UAS and support the global aviation safety collaboration (ICAO, 2018). Thus, information presented to integrate UAS into the airspace must increase safety by reducing the level of risk.
Technology is a mystery as many unique systems are available and require further review. Will the regulatory committees provide guidance on the standards for each individual UAS operation? The UAS aim is to operate among manned aircraft, although allowing a flight over people presents a hazard. Current regulations require a strategy as the last defense once the technology fails and plummets to the ground.
The best route of compliance for operations over people requires accepting a certification baseline to establish the certification parameters. The current regulatory language stipulates impact prevention procedures that use certified technology as the primary means to reduce the risk of human impact. Technology is promising although requires standards and certification procedures. Today, certified technology certified adds a layer of safety to prevent a collision with a person on the ground. An important outcome for operations over a human remains after the technology fails. What will the pilot do without having the ability to maneuver the aircraft once the unmanned aircraft's engine quits? This becomes problematic and pushes operating over people into the high-risk category.
Path Forward to Operate Over People
Part 107.39, operations over human beings, states that no person may operate a small UAS over people unless the person is taking part in the operation. Or the person must be located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling unmanned aircraft. Otherwise, this suggests that that FAA does not allow a UAS to operate over people. Thus, technology requires the FAA to approve a baseline to certify the equipment for flight over people. Having a certification baseline will present predictability and reliability associated with BVLOS equipment.
Flying over people is a subjective topic, as the pilot must know whether people exist on the ground. The risk increases as the pilot is located elsewhere from the unmanned aircraft and unlikely will know whether a person is in the operating area. Political pressure from the White House has pushed the FAA into a frenzy to enable UAS operations. The Integrated Pilot Program or IPP directed the FAA to select ten contestants and work through a program to enable UAS operations. So far, what the FAA has determined, integration and operations over people without equipage certification creates the potential for a disastrous outcome. The FAA is in the crawl phase while analyzing each individual operation and determining the best mitigation strategy. Without standards and equipment certification, political pressure pushes the FAA into approving UAS operations that increases risk to other users in the airspace.