UAV air traffic integration working groups on both sides of the Atlantic are exploring cooperative efforts to secure dedicated UAV bandwidth allocations from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radio Congress at its 2010-11 meeting.

Initial talks have been held between the European organisation for civil aviation equipment’s (EUROCAE) working group 73 (WG-73) on UAV operations in the context of European air traffic management and the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) special committee 203 (SC-203) on unmanned aircraft systems. 

The cooperative approach follows unsuccessful efforts over the past two years by a variety of organisations, including the British Civil Aviation Authority, to try and get the issue onto the ITU’s approved agenda for debate and decisions at the 2007 World Radio Congress, being held in Geneva at the end of October. That conference will however consider submissions for inclusion of dedicated UAV spectrum as an agenda item for the 2010-2011 congress as a result of the lobbying by UAV organisations over the past year.

A dedicated spectrum allocation is considered essential within the UAV sector to the safe operation of systems in non-segregated airspace at both a national and international level says WG 73 secretary Dewar Donnithorne-Tait: “We need a global frequency and bandwidth allocation so that UAVs can fly safely around the world safely with those links.  That is the business need”.

Speaking at the Bristol International UAV conference in Bristol, UK, he said that a draft proposal on UAV spectrum is currently being circulated amongst European Union countries. That draft was prepared by the French frequency management agency and issued in March this year.

Both WG-73 and SC-203 have appointed coordinators for their own respective efforts to prepare cases to place before the ITU: “We are already now sharing information and we have already got quite a lot of evidence”.

The global UAV industry needs to have its case ready for submission by February 2009 Donnithorne-Tait told the conference, to ensure the issue is considered by all ITU member states ahead of the 2010-2011 conference.