One of the potential consequences of the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Re-authorization Act (https://www.unmannedairspace.info/uncategorized/faa-can-now-fast-track-new-bvlos-approval-procedures-after-passage-of-faa-authorization-act/) is for the FAA to move quickly to outline a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations at or below 400ft which would be published four months after passage of the legislation.
On July 20, Congress overwhelmingly approved the act and it is now before the Senate.
But the delay in moving the act through the legislative process and the complexities involved in responding to public comments on a range of BVLOS technical, standards and procedural issues it will need to address in the NPRM (See: FAA is working through a long list of public comments on BVLOS challenges) means that the proposals might not see the light of day for another 12 months, according to some reports of proceedings at the FAA/AUVSI Drone symposium in Baltimore.
The FAA published the Beyond Visual Line of Sight Aviation Rulemaking Committee (BVLOS ARC) report March 10, 2022. This report is a set of industry recommendations to the FAA which they will use as input to BVLOS regulations needed before operators can fly BVLOS missions without a waiver.
The FAA’s new proposed rules will be based on the ARC findings, public responses to its BVLOS challenge statement, its experience in granting exemptions to the current rules and progress on the BEYOND research programmes, said FAA officials at the event.
The FAA’s David Boulter, the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety (Acting) said that the “FAA’s goal is to template exemptions so that approvals will be streamline for operators seeking to conduct similar operations at similar risk levels,” according to a report on the event by organiser AUVSI. “The end product will be the safe integration of drones as a transport category into the NAS.”
The FAA has recently begun to ramp up the pace of BVLOS waivers, allowing limited advanced operations to gather more data, with four proposed exemptions for BLVOS operations from Phoenix Air Unmanned, uAvionix, UPS Flight Forward, and Zipline processed earlier this summer.
In developing its BVLOS NRPM, the FAA is also taking into account the early results of the BEYOND research programme; meanwhile the FAA is planning a new UTM Key Site which will trial multiple drone operations in complex missions below 400ft supported by multiple UTM service providers.
In terms of airspace integration and the move towards developing a regulatory ad standards template for UTM systems, Steve Bradford, Chief Scientific & Technical Advisor from FAA’s Office of NextGen, said there was already some blending in operations between crewed and uncrewed aircraft in Class B and Class C airspace where drones operate under a certain altitude, but that the future lies BVLOS operations.
“The conversation continued to discuss needs that will arise for UTM as BVLOS operations expand. This includes a network for operators to exchange strategic intent with each other for safe and seamless operations,” said the AUVSI report on proceedings.
For more information
|FAA is working through a long list of public comments on BVLOS challenges
In May 2023 the FAA announced it was considering the expansion of BVLOS operations in certain operating environments with the appropriate safety mitigations to ensure no adverse safety impact. The FAA published a series of issues to which it sought public comment (with a deadline of June 14, 2023), “to gather additional technical input on key concepts and potential approaches that the FAA is contemplating for use in future exemptions.”
These were the issues the FAA wanted public input into:
A. Detect and Avoid Systems Performance Standards
The FAA recognizes that several industry standards have been published that may be useful in defining the performance of Detect and Avoid (DAA) systems, a major component of BVLOS operations. However, any single standard may not be fully appropriate for the uses intended by applicants operating at and below 400 feet above ground level (AGL). Therefore, the FAA is reviewing these standards, as well as ways for operators to demonstrate that their DAA system meets specific requirements in a combination of published standards. These include:
1. ASTM F3442/F3442M–23, Standard Specification for Detect and Avoid System Performance Requirements, dated February 28, 2023.
2. RTCA DO–381, Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) for Ground Based Surveillance Systems (GBSS) for Traffic Surveillance, dated March 26, 2020.
3. RTCA DO–365C, Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) for Detect and Avoid (DAA) Systems, dated September 15, 2022.
4. RTCA DO–396, Minimum Operational Performance Standards for Airborne Collision Avoidance System sXu (ACAS sXu), dated December 15, 2022.
B. Declarations of Compliance for Detect and Avoid
As the FAA is contemplating operations beyond visual line of sight, the FAA is considering allowing operators to declare that they are utilizing DAA systems that meet the DAA standard(s) referenced above.
C. Well-Clear Boundary
ASTM F3442/F3442M–23, Standard Specification for Detect and Avoid System Performance Requirements, referenced previously, suggests maintaining a horizontal distance of 2,000 feet and a vertical distance of 250 feet between a small UAS and crewed aircraft, described as a “hockey-puck-shaped” area of airspace surrounding the small UAS.
D. DAA Systems That Include Third-Party Services/Associated Elements (AE)
There are numerous technologies and architectures that may be suitable when implementing DAA solutions. Some systems may have sensors and DAA logic that are fully contained onboard the aircraft with information relayed to the pilot control station. A remote pilot may be involved in executing avoidance maneuvers, or may monitor the aircraft’s automated response. Other systems may rely on ground-based sensors that are connected to, but distinct from, the UA and its control station. Yet other DAA systems may use a combination of those approaches.
Under 14 CFR 1.1, a UAS is defined as the UA and its associated elements necessary to support the safe flight of the UA. However, in various petitions for exemptions, the FAA has understood some DAA system components are intended to be reused by multiple operators. These components are generally not directly controlled by either the UAS manufacturer or the operator; rather, they are controlled by a third-party service provider. Third-party services may directly support the DAA solution by, for example, detecting crewed aircraft in a defined geographic region, or by relaying such information through a managed command and control (C2) link on behalf of multiple operators.
Therefore, the FAA is considering new ways to evaluate and recognize these components as distinct elements. Additionally, section 377 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115–254) directs the Administrator to “determine if certain UTM [Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management] services may operate safely in the national airspace system before completion of the implementation plan required by Section 376.”
E. Use of UTM Services for Strategic Deconfliction
At present, the FAA has not determined an acceptable level of risk for collision between two UA. However, FAA is concerned that with increasing numbers of BVLOS UAS operations, two UA could collide, resulting in falling debris that could cause property damage, injuries, or fatalities to non-participants on the ground.
F. Detect and Avoid Between Unmanned Aircraft
FAA views strategic deconfliction and conformance monitoring as two layers of a new, conceptual conflict management strategy for UAS. The FAA is also considering requiring a third layer, in the form of detect-and-avoid between UA, leveraging some form of vehicle-to-vehicle communications method.
G. Beyond Visual Line of Sight Shielded Operations
The BVLOS ARC report proposed labeling certain type of BVLOS operations as shielded operations. These operations would occur in a shielded area defined by the ARC as “a volume of airspace that includes 100′ above the vertical extent of an obstacle or critical infrastructure and is within 100 feet of the lateral extent of the same obstacle or critical infrastructure as defined in 42 U.S.C. 5195(c).” Furthermore, the ARC recommended that shielded operations be given right-of-way privileges based on the unique nature of those operations and the limited likelihood of crewed aircraft operations in the specified areas.
The FAA is considering a similar framework based on safety analysis and some ability to detect and avoid crewed aircraft operations.
• G4. What type of notification ( e.g., email/phone call, web portal, mobile phone application using UTM services, etc.) should operators conducting BVLOS shielded operations provide to the local aviation communities?