ICAO Drone Enable Symposium 2021: “Time to change the mindsets on airspace access”

By Jenny Beechener

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) approach to regulation is by incremental adjustment. “Uber/Tesla look at this in an entirely different way,” said Steve Creamer, ICAO Air Navigation Bureau Director during the concluding session of Drone Enable 2021 on 21 April. “We need a different set of thought practices to solve airspace access.” He sees opportunities where industry is no longer beholden to hardware development but to more agile, lower cost software. “We are applying these lessons in developing future Flight and Flow Information for a Collaborative Environment (FF-ICE) – a trajectory-based management concept that is the basis of the future performance-based air navigation system.” ICAO’s biggest challenge is ensuring change happens in each region of the world.

“ICAO is getting better at promoting regional commitment through informal stakeholder groups,” said Steve Creamer. “The secret source is the guidance materials and regional offices that help the process. The onus is on the member states.” ICAO is refining its local processes and will use the Trust Framework to support safety approvals, working in collaboration with standards agencies including RTCA and EUROCAE. “If we apply safety management principles, we can be more agile. A safety incident risks destroying the business case, so we need to be careful.” He expects some states to “leapfrog” more developed regions in accommodating Unmanned and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (UAS/RPAS).

IATA’s ATM Infrastructure Director Carlos Cirilo agreed the industry needs to adjust to new processes and procedures. “We used to develop then build. Now we build, implement and learn in the same process.” An aircraft’s long lifespan makes it doubly important to understand what lies ahead.

Technology is central to meeting new entrants’ requirements. ICAO ATM Section Chief Chris Dalton said future regulatory provisions allowing for higher levels of automation have to be supported by relevant technological capability. For example, ‘see and avoid’ has to be replaced by ‘detect and avoid’, and future flight rules require System Wide Information Management (SWIM) platforms and secure spectrum access. He anticipates a “younger, more diverse ICAO staff profile helping to change mindsets within the agency.”

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