Five recommendations for standardisation efforts in the UK says new report by RPAS-UK and BSI

The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS-UK) has published a new report in association with the British Standards Institute (BSI) that considers the current landscape for the standards related to drones and uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), and provides an assessment of potential priorities for the future.

The Drones standards landscape report entitled Overview of drones and UAS standards landscape 2021 provides insights into:

  • The current standards landscape including work happening in the UK and internationally
  • Key challenges and opportunities facing deployment of UAS
  • Signposts to some of the regulatory issues
  • What standards might be needed in future and how this could help the industry and support innovation.

The report addresses the following areas:

  • Mapping of current standards landscape to reveal areas of existing technical coverage and duplication of effort, where different industries or organisations may be pursuing standards with the same scope
  • Gaps in the standards environment where work has not yet started
  • Barriers to adoption, such as confusion around requirements, licensing, or safety issues.

Primary research was conducted using a combination of methods, including an online survey, and a series of semi-structured interviews. A wide range of stakeholders from across the uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) sector contributed their views and expertise to this project. Primary research was supplemented by extensive domain research to identify national and international standards of relevance to the field of UAS. The survey gained more than 300 responses from across the sector, many of whom had a significant number of years’ experience, augmented by 40 follow-up interviews from survey respondents representing a range of views across key stakeholders including operators, regulators, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), academics, and analysts.

The survey identified some high priority issues that need to be addressed for the sector such as certification, risk, and safety. However, several of the high priority areas such as airspace integration, public acceptance (ie life/property critical topics) were deemed by survey respondents to be more appropriate to be addressed by regulation rather than standards. Therefore, those topics that many would expect to see as high priority areas such as BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) and DAA (Detect-and-Avoid) did not feature in the priorities for standards. The principal categories that the survey has identified where standards can help shape the sector are related to safety, public acceptance and reinforcing regulations. And in terms of specific sub-topics, the survey has highlighted that ORA (Operational Risk Assessment), Maintenance and Data Capture and Processing are the most suitable specific topics.

This project identified five recommendations to support standardisation efforts in the UK. Recommendation Description 1: Strategy Review the BSI governance strategy against roadmap required to support the delivery of a coherent and high-impact UAS standards programme that aligns with the strategic priorities of the UK’s UAS roadmap. Co-ordination with programmes from Department for Transport (DfT), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK will add to the relevance of the standards programme. 2: Framework BSI should adopt a standard framework, taxonomy and nomenclature to provide clarity and consistency across the standards landscape relating to UAS. 3: International For Aviation Standards, BSI should identify priority areas where strengthening participation in international standards and/or collaboration with other countries would be in the UK’s interest. 4: Adaptation of enabling standards For Enabling Standards, BSI should work with relevant regulators, Standards Development Organizations and Bodies to adapt and augment existing standards to bridge the gap for the UAS sector. 5: Sectoral standards For Industry Standards, BSI should engage actively with relevant industry groups and associations to develop best practice guidance that keeps pace with the rate of technological innovation in the UAS sector and can subsequently be developed into formal standards. Whilst there are more than 650 standards in development, the basic foundations — such as agreed standard definitions — need to be addressed, for example, ‘safety critical’ vs ‘safety related’ and UAS Traffic Management (UTM) vs Unified Traffic Management.

ARPAS-UK is the Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.  It is a not for profit trade association and professional body which supports and acts on behalf of the remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS) community, from start-up businesses to larger established operations.

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