The US Air Force is planning a modelling and simulation system which replicates the US national airspace system (NAS) to allow for development of procedures for the integration of UAVs into non-segregated airspace.

The proposed simulation system will “permit modelling the "knowns” (generic aircraft including communications, command and control performance for each class, flight rules, air traffic control rules, etc.) and providing “parameter space” for the unknowns” the USAF says.

A request for information (RFI) released by Air Force Materiel Command on 13 September says: “Safety of operations is the primary concern when remotely or autonomously operated aircraft are allowed to mix with conventionally controlled flights in the NAS. There is currently no experience base on unmanned air systems that the Federal Aviation Administration can use to issue rules and guidance.

“Given that there are currently no performance standards for sense and avoid systems and no approval criteria for autonomous collision avoidance systems, it is unclear how to proceed in giving unmanned systems an "equivalent level of safety" to manned aircraft.

“The Air Force therefore intends to derive initial capability requirements for sense and avoid system performance (sensor performance, communications performance, and control) through modelling, simulation, and analysis of representative unmanned air systems.”

Current USAF UAV operations in the US national airspace are permitted using a combination of  certificates of authorization and temporary flight restrictions.

The RFI says the planned simulation system will operate as “a performance specification investigative tool to permit the iterative optimization of a sense and avoid system that enables safe unmanned air system operations in the national air space under a given set of operating constraints”.

The RFI closes 9 October.