The unmanned air vehicle industry must open detailed talks with air navigation service providers (ANSP) to influence policy decisions on how UAVs will operate in controlled airspace, warn UK air traffic controllers.

The UK Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers (GATCO) says UAVs need to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation manned aircraft standards for interaction with air traffic control, and policy is already being formed in the absence of UAV manufacturer and operator input.

UAVs "must be transparent to the ATCO" and capable of following ATC instructions, said GATCO president John Levesley, speaking at last week's Royal Aeronautical Society Aerospace 2005 conference in London.

Debate is under way in Eurocontrol about how the issue is to be handled, because of the rapidly growing importance of UAVs in aviation. "The UAV lobby had better sit down now and start talking turkey" with those who have to cope with the environment in which their aircraft will fly, Levesley says.

There are several minimum requirements for UAVs that will share their airspace with manned aircraft, Levesley says. The basic one, even in uncontrolled airspace, is a "sense and avoid" capability. Also, for them to be "transparent to the ATCO", they must be "known traffic". That means even in uncontrolled airspace they must be identifiable as UAVs, including type and operational details, which implies the use of a Mode S-level capability transponder. That raises the issue of how other manned, powered aircraft and gliders in uncontrolled airspace would recognise and treat them, including right-of-way rules.

Levesley says ATCOs "should not have to apply different standards or techniques for UAVs", and this includes procedures like pre-notification or flight plans where they would be applicable for manned aircraft.


Source: Flight International