Considerable efforts are being expended to ensure that future standards for UAV certification are in harmony in Europe and in North America

Development of the underlying standards that will enable the US Federal Aviation Administration to establish a UAV certification regime has seen a major role emerge for consensus-based standards organisations in the USA that is about to spread to Europe.

The two primary US efforts – launched separately but now seeking a common approach – are headed by the FAA-backed RTCA and privately funded ASTM International. Senior officials from the UAV committees of both organisations have made several visits to Europe over the past year to strengthen transatlantic understanding of US thinking.

Options for a transatlantic project were discussed at the annual FAA-EASA talks in Cologne in June. Those talks have resulted in plans for the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) to launch a European mirror standards project. EUROCAE secretary general Gilbert Amato says: “There is absolutely a need for standardising UAVs and having the right procedures and recommendations for that domain. We will probably be opening a new working group in September or October at the latest. EUROCAE and the RTCA will be working together and we will try to have a joint group.”

RTCA and EUROCAE are already co-operating on developing a variety of draft civil aviation standards. Current joint projects include interoperability requirements for Arinc 622 data communications, ADS-B surveillance datalink, software design and user requirements for terrain and obstacle data. Amato says EUROCAE has 22 active working groups and there is potential to reuse the output of at least 19 of these “in the UAV domain”.

Consensus approach

EASA and Eurocontrol support for the new initiative will be critical. Yves Morier, head of EASA’s product safety unit, says the consensus approach “could be an innovative way to progress” and will be examined by the regulator.

Alex Hendriks, head of the airspace, flow management and navigation division at Eurocontrol, says the engagement of Europe in a common standards process is central to achieving a fully harmonised international regulatory environment. “We need to work now very closely together, all of us – regulators, manufacturers, users, ATM providers – to make sure the level of standardisation that is necessary later on for UAVs to operate is available for the manufacturers. That is a clear point,” he says.

“We must start now, otherwise we are behind the curve. But once the manufacturers, on that basis, have produced these UAVs and the market is there, we as ATM providers have the responsibility to facilitate it. We cannot be the stumbling block. We must be ready. It is as simple as that.”

The transatlantic link-up comes as the FAA, RTCA and ASTM embark on efforts to synchronise their efforts more closely in terms of US policy.

RTCA has an extensive track record in working with the FAA in developing standards for communications, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management issues. In July 2004 it set up Special Committee 203 – Unmanned Air Vehicles – in response to a request from the FAA to examine the emerging requirements of the market. That FAA request was, in turn, sparked by an approach to the FAA by the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which was concerned by the potential impact that the introduction of UAVs into the national airspace would have on the general aviation community.

Falco UAV

Special Committee 203 plans to produce three sets of recommended minimum aviation system performance standards (MASPS) over the next 30 months for consideration by the FAA. Work on the first of these began last November and will result in a generic description of what constitutes an unmanned aircraft system. That is due to be finalised this December.

This will be followed by a MASPS 02 for command, control and communications systems for unmanned aircraft systems, with work beginning in the next month and concluding in June 2006. Work on MASPS 03, for sense and avoid systems for unmanned air systems, is due to begin next year and end in December 2007.

ASTM International Committee F38 for unmanned aircraft systems was set up in July 2003 at the instigation of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) following discussions between the trade organisation and the FAA on future airspace integration requirements for UAVs.

ASTM had at that stage only recently completed its Committee F37 light-sport aircraft project, with the FAA adopting those consensus standards as the basis for certification of aircraft in that class.

Working groups

The Committee F38 work programme is being carried out by three working groups, covering aircraft certification, flight operations and pilot and maintainer certification. The 38.01 subcommittee is looking at the aircraft, sense-and-avoid systems, datalinks, ground control systems and launch and recovery systems. The subcommittee 38.02 work plan focuses on visual line-of-sight operations, with a draft standard on this to be released soon, and beyond-line-of-sight operations. The 38.03 committee is examining pilot certification, licensing, medical standards, and maintenance personnel.

Committee F38 has so far submitted two sets of proposed standards to the FAA. The first, F23955 “Standard Terminology for Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems”, was presented on 1 June 2004. The second, F2411-04 “Standard Specifications for Design and Performance Requirements for an Airborne Sense and Avoid System”, was submitted to the FAA on 1 July 2004. It has since been accepted by the US Department of Defense, says Jeff Goldfinger, membership secretary for committee F38. “As of 23 May [2005], the Defence Standards Programme Office has officially adopted F2411-04 as the standard for developing a sense-and-avoid appliance for military UAVs.”

Three-way discussions between the FAA, ASTM and RTCA were launched three months ago focusing on co-operation options and the need to avoid duplication of effort.

Daniel Schultz, ASTM International committee operations manager, says: “There is a great understanding within the FAA, RTCA and ASTM International that the workflows of the two organisations – RTCA and ASTM – are significant in providing tools to assist the FAA in developing technical guidance for unmanned aircraft system oversight – RTCA in offering assistance to the rulemaking process, and ASTM in providing high-quality technical material for reference within it.

“The next step is to ensure the processes marry through proper liaison so as to capitalise on the core competency of each without duplicating effort. In doing so, we will provide as much education to the industry and [the US] administration as possible, so the information that is promulgated can be most effectively incorporated with regulation and applied for the advancement and safety of the unmanned aircraft system’s industry.”



Source: Flight International