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ICAO flags proposed role in preparing for global UAV air traffic integration

The International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) Air Navigation Commission is to consider a draft strategy early in 2007 setting out minimum requirements for a common international approach to airspace integration for UAVs.

The strategy will propose adoption of a performance based regulatory environment, recommending that future ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) be based on existing work by organisations such as EUROCAE, EUROCONTROL, and the aviation standards body RTCA.

It will also stress the urgent need for international agreement on allocation of appropriate bandwidth to allow for safe control of UAVs.

If endorsed for further development by ICAO, the strategy “will serve as the framework for our regulatory evolution” says Vince Galotti, chief of ICAO’s air traffic management section. “We will use that document as our bible so to speak”.

Speaking 8 November at the Unmanned Vehicle Systems Canada conference in Montebello, Quebec, Galotti said the draft strategy follows some twelve months of behind the scenes activity by the Air Navigation Commission.

That body approved launch of an international consultation process in April 2005. In June 2005 it approved sending a state letter to 43 nations and 9 international organisations inviting their comments and proposals, with 21 countries and three organisations responding.

That letter was followed up by a workshop held in Montreal on 24 May this year, with delegates representing, amongst others, Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, and Sweden. That meeting agreed on the need for a draft strategy and the formation of an informal international working group to support its preparation. Galotti says “we agreed that this would be our guiding, harmonising document.”

The draft strategy currently stands at some 80 pages with the final draft expected to be approved by the working group at a meeting at the end of January. The draft represents “everything they can agree to, to this point. I will present that to the Air Navigation Commission in February-March and get approvals for this whole approach” Galotti told the conference.

Regulatory and certification issues identified by the strategy as needing further work would be assigned to other ICAO panels and working groups after the Air Navigation Commission review.

Galotti said that ICAO has been “struggling” to identify its role in guiding the emergence of the UAV sector. However the May meeting identified that there is a “very important role” for the organisation in providing a background structure upon which to consolidate existing efforts to achieve a common regulatory environment and sort out standard terminology for the sector.

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