Australian aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is expecting consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton to complete a study by the end of March into vertical guidance options for the country.

The consultants were appointed last July to determine the most suitable and cost-effective technology to deliver improved navigation in Australia using the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) with vertical guidance.

Instrument approaches using vertical guidance provide significant safety, operational and environmental benefits over existing non-precision approaches, notes CASA. These include safer approach path guidance, simpler approach procedures and possibly lower minimum descent altitudes in adverse weather.

Vertical guidance requires the use of augmented GNSS and the study is looking at systems such as Japan's Multi-function Transport Satellite-based Augmentation System and the US Wide Area Augmentation System.

The study is expected to include a technical feasibility assessment and cost-benefit analysis of technologies available today and in the future.

Meanwhile, CASA has contracted New Zealand company Radiola Aerospace to flight validate instrument approach procedures at nearly 300 Australian airports.

Radiola will work with Canberra-based Corporate Air checking instrument approach procedures, including identifying obstacles.

On the regulatory front, CASA expects to release the notice of final rule-making for alcohol and drug testing in the second quarter of this year.

The Australian authority is proposing to introduce industry-managed drug and alcohol plans for aviation organisations and a CASA-managed random testing programme.

Organisations will have six months from the start of the new regulations to develop and implement their plans. CASA will oversee a random testing programme affecting more than 120,000 safety-sensitive aviation personnel, including private pilots. Random testing is due to start by the middle of this year.