EASA invites comments on proposals for BVLOS operations in an urban environment

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) invites comments on the overall concept presented at the webinar hosted by the agency on 1 October on beyond line of visual sight (BVLOS) operations in an urban environment.

according to the current EASA timetable the Agency plans to:

  • Receive comments on this proposal by NAAs by 9 October
  • Review the changes proposed to EASA SORA with JARUS WG6 by end of October
  • Publish by the end of 2020 the Cert Memo/DOARI/GM or similar regulatory
    material to bridge time until adoption of new regulation
  • Publish by end of 2020/beginning 2021 a Decision with amendments to EASA SORA
  • Have a focused consultation with all affected stakeholders on the proposal of the
    new regulation on AW of certified UAS in medium risk in the specific category by
    Q1 2021
  • Publish the new regulation on AW of UAS in medium risk in the specific category
    by Q3 2021

A summary of the principal points raised and discussed during the webinar is available on the UVS International website, the association representing manufacturers and operators of remotely piloted systems. The main points are summarised as follows:

Population density

  • For the purpose of developing a map to identify the population density, EASA plans to launch a dedicated study;
  • Instead of static maps, EASA is looking to develop a technology to establish the real density on the exact moment. The study will define the most appropriate solution to achieve this objective. The study will also allow to develop a clear definition of ‘‘populated areas’’. The study will address the whole territory of Europe;
  • It has not yet been decided who will conduct the study, EASA is currently looking for resources to finance this activity.

EU (through EASA) is competent to assess the design of an aircraft (including drones)

  • EASA is the competent authority in the EU for the verification of the design of aircraft (including drones). EASA may in the future consider to use the support of other entities (e.g. Qualified Entity or NAA). However it is too early at this stage to discuss this;
  • NAAs are the competent authorities for assessing operational and pilot competency aspects. Also in this case, NAA may be supported by Qualified Entities (QE) or recognized entities (e.g. consulting companies).

High robustness for SAIL V and VI

  • EASA believes that there is an inconsistency between the level of robustness required for OSO 4 (design) and OSO 5 (reliability). For SAIL V OSO 4 is “M” and OSO 5 is “H”. The reliability cannot be verified without the verification of the design. EASA intends to modify the robustness of OSO 4 as described in the presentation; however it will introduce the flexibility to use standards for experimental operations. EASA will discuss this with JARUS WG 6;
  • UAS to be operated in high risk operations in the specific category will be required to be certified according to Part 21.

JARUS SORA developments

  • When addressing the risk of collision when more than one UAS are flying in the same airspace (e.g. urban), SORA currently considers only one operation of an UAS, the JARUS WG 6 is now working on Annex G to SORA to tackle that drone-to-drone collision risk. However, EASA considers that in the first phase, the number of UAS operations will not be too high;
  • JARUS is also working on cybersecurity issues. A new document on cybersecurity will shortly be out for consultation.

Light certification process for «medium assurance operations»

  • EASA offers the NAA the possibility to mandate (within the operational authorisations) that UAS operators use certified drones when conducting operations in the medium risk (SAIL III and IV). In that case, the liability (in case of technical failure) changes from the UAS operator to the manufacturer. In this case, the EASA certificate will cover all OSOs related to design [OSOs 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 18, 19 (limited to criteria 3), 20, 24], and the NAA will verify compliance only for the remaining OSOs;
  • Manufacturers may also apply directly to EASA for a certification. Some manufacturers will find it beneficiary to protect proprietary information;
  • In case a NAA does not want to require a certified UAS, the NAA will accept a declaration covering also the design related OSOs from the operator. The declaration will have to be signed by the UAS operator, who will declare the compliance to all OSOs and will bear the liability;
  • A regulation defining a simplified certification process (inspired by the light certification process defined in the new Part 21 Light, Part CAMO and Part ML with additional simplifications) will be developed.

CE marking: When is it mandatory?

To clarify this point, it is better to explain how the design of a drone will be assessed in the different categories.

  • In the certified category, and the specific category high risk, only drones with a (restricted) TC issued by EASA can be used;
  • In the specific category low/medium level of risk, there is some flexibility:
    • If the operation is covered by a standard scenario (STS), the CE class label marking is mandatory;
    • For all other operations the following 3 options are possible: – The operator includes in the application for authorisation to be sent to the NAA also the declaration of compliance of the drone with the design related OSOs; – The NAA mandates that for some operations only drones with a TC issued by EASA can be used; – Manufacturer voluntarily applies for a (R)TC and puts a drone with the (R)TC on the market. In that case, the UAS operator will not need to declare compliance to the design related OSOs.
    • With regards to PDRAs (predefined risk assessments), these still require an authorisation by the NAA. The PDRA already includes the package that a UAS operator needs to deliver to the NAA in order to get the authorisation; the purpose of PDRA is to facilitate the process for the UAS operator, so the authorisation process will again follow one of the 3 options above;
    • EASA is in the process to publish by the end of this year two new PDRAs mirroring the STSs (the only difference with STS will be that a drone with CE class mark will not be required) and an additional PDRA for BVLOS operations in sparsely populated area in reserved airspace.

Experimental flights under the Specific category

  • The authorisation process will be the same as per ‘normal’ operations: UAS operator will apply to the competent authority to show compliance with requirements and depending on the SAIL and the evidence provided by the operator;
  • It is foreseen that the vast majority of this kind of operations will be conducted in a controlled area where the ground risk and the air risk is very limited. A provision will be included to have the flexibility to not use any standard for design;
  • UAS operators are invited to develop PDRAs for the purpose of test flights.

JARUS SORA developments

  • JARUS WG 6 is already working to expand the scope of SORA to address the risk of collision when more UAS are flying in the same airspace (e.g. urban): for now SORA considers only one operation of an UAS; however, we consider that in the first phase, the number of UAS operations will not be too high;
  • JARUS is also working on cybersecurity issues – the new Annex on cybersecurity will be out for consultation in a few weeks;
  • Annex F was published in April for WG6 internal consultation. JARUS is also addressing ground to ground risk, swarm of drones. In few weeks some documents should be issued.

Discussing changes to SORA with JARUS

  • EASA will discuss with JARUS the proposed changes to SORA;
  • Even if discussed and agreed with JARUS, JARUS may not update and publish SORA by the end of this year. In EU it is more urgent and we have different timeline, as we included SORA in our regulatory framework.

Way forward to ensure a uniform & consistent implementation of medium risk operations in the specific category

  • EASA is conducting weekly meetings with NAAs to understand their needs. We also plan to establish a common repository to share the best practices and then to decide which ones are the most effective. Based on this, EASA may then later on be able to accommodate some changes in the regulation (if needed);
  • EASA will monitor and assure that the approach is consistent. With the new approach,
  • manufacturers will have a proportionate tool to make their product available on the market. With regards to reliability, it will be beneficial for both NAAs and manufacturers to follow the approach.

EASA invites comments on the overall concept presented and the points mentioned above. Comments are to be sent to Barbara Zygala (barbara.zygula@easa.europa.eu) and should be received prior to 14th of October 2020.

Link to the EASA presentation: https://rpas-regulations.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/EASA_Presentation_Operations-Medium-Risk-Specific-Category_201001_TR.pdf

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(Image: Shutterstock)

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