A number of airspace regulation issues with ADF use of UAVs were outlined
during the inquiry, with air safety issues and airworthiness certification
frequently mentioned topics. For example, Ms Rosalyn Turner from ASPI identified
that airspace regulation for UAVs was 'something that should be addressed
up-front, because it can cause delays and restrictions on the use of the
An information paper provided by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority
(CASA) outlined some of the operational issues with UAV or 'remotely piloted
aircraft' (RPA) used in civilian airspace. In particular, CASA distinguished
between large UAVs operating at high altitude fitted with transponders and
Automatic Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) avionics (which broadcast an
aircraft's position) allowing them to be identified by air traffic control and
other smaller UAVs which are not fitted with these features. It noted that with
the latter UAVs, positive separation and directed traffic information services
cannot be provided by air traffic control as the UAVs 'are not visible to the
air traffic management system'.
Aircraft operating under the [visual flight rules] use 'see-and-avoid'
as a method for preventing mid-air conflicts. [UAV] do not have the ability to 'see-and-avoid'
other aircraft, therefore the majority of Area Approvals have been granted to [UAVs]
operating within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS). The operator must be able to see
and control the aircraft at all times. VLOS operations limits the operational
area of the UAV.
In Australia, CASA regulates unmanned aircraft through the Civil
Aviation Safety Regulation (CASR) Part 101. An operating certificate and
unmanned aircraft controller's certificate are required to be issued by CASA to
conduct UAV operations.
CASA told the committee that CASR Part 101 (promulgated in 2002) has become
outdated due to technological developments and is in the process of being
Under CASA Project OS 11/20, amendments have been drafted to
reflect the terminology being used by [the International Civil Aviation
Organisation] to clarify the requirements for remote pilot training and
certification, to remove redundant requirements and to simplify the process for
approval. The project also examined the establishment of a risk-based framework
for regulating RPA operations by weight.
Mr Peter Boyd from CASA told the committee that a draft of the update
had been completed and been distributed for consultation last year. He also
noted the UAV subcommittee of CASA's Standards Consultative Committee was finalising
a road map of regulatory development priorities including 'whether or not we
can get technology to detect and avoid and how we look at operations in a
Defence has introduced a new set of regulations against which UAVs can
be certified and operated. These new regulations are not based on weight or
size for categorisation, but risk to third parties (other airspace users, non-mission
essential personnel and critical infrastructure). Defence noted:
[This] categorisation of UAS is unique, being based on likely
risk and operations, rather than purely physical characteristics. Defence has
the opportunity to promote this system with allied agencies, though of course
the development of recognised standards is still required.
Defence stated that CASA's proposed new RPA regulations and Defence UAV
regulations are not aligned as CASA maintained a weight based categorisation
system. However, Defence did not have any other concerns with the methodology
of CASA's regulatory development and stated that it would seek to ensure that
both Defence and CASA regulations are compatible to allow required access to
Internationally, CASA outlined that the International Civil Aviation
Organisation (ICAO) 'supports the safe, secure and efficient integration of RPA
into non-segregated airspace and aerodromes'. It noted ICAO is developing a
roadmap for the integration of [UAV], guidance to States as they establish
their own regulatory frameworks for UAVs and contributing to 'the development
of technical specifications for detect and avoid and command and control
data-links for [UAVs]'.
CASA also noted it was engaged with other national air regulators through the
Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) and other forums
on the issues raised by UAVs.
The objective of JARUS is to provide guidance material to national air
authorities and recommend technical, safety and operational requirements for
the certification and safe integration of UAVs in to airspace and at
There was broad agreement that CASA had been progressive in the
regulatory management of UAVs, but that further work was required. For example,
Mr Anthony Patterson from Cobham Aviation Services considered that 'Australia
has been very forward leaning in a regulatory sense'.
While Defence appeared to agree with this assessment, it also highlighted
different priorities existed in relation to regulatory development:
CASA is currently more concerned with the development and
enforcement of regulations to support the operations of small RPA (generally
less than 7kg), with the number of applications for commercial operators
increasing exponentially in the past two years. On the other hand, Defence is
currently more concerned with the development and implementation of regulations
to support the employment of much larger platforms such as the Heron-1 and
In this context, the ACUO argued that 'civil aviation regulators are
under-resourced to be meet extant civil as well as emergent Defence specific
The lack of consistent regulatory frameworks for UAVs was identified as
an obstacle to increased UAV use in civilian airspace.
Defence considered that '[a]chieving a common understanding/agreed method to
categorise unmanned aircraft, and hence apply a common or agreed set of
regulations and standards, should be the first priority of the international
aviation community'. It explained there was no agreed categorisation system for
UAV across allied nations. Defence considered that this was 'an area deserving
of further consideration, in order to support the consistent certification of
In the civilian sense, there is a common understanding of the
design requirements for sports aircraft, general aviation aircraft, light
commuter airlines all the way up to large commercial airlines....This is not the
case for unmanned aircraft, as no standard currently exists. This situation is
made more acute by the fact that the various states and agencies have yet to
agree on the scheme by which unmanned aircraft are categorised and therefore
where the various design requirements should be applied.
Similarly, the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation
There is a need to move towards a framework of airworthiness
certification based on an appropriate set of standards for the platform and
operational scenario, and the development of requirements for the appropriate
technologies and procedures to maintain aircraft separation and deal with
aircraft emergencies such as engine failure.
Mr Anthony Patterson from Cobham Aviation Services also considered that
a certification standard was the 'real piece missing' from civil regulatory
One does not exist internationally, so it is difficult to get
type certification because no standard exists against which to get type
certification. That is the real challenge... I think from a regulatory point of
view we will catch up, but, because the regulatory environment—or particularly
the certification environment—is dependent on Australia being harmonised with
the rest of the world, Australia is in advance of the rest of the world and so
we are waiting for what the rest of the world is going to do. That is the
Defence UAVs in civilian airspace
Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Davies stated that, at the moment, Defence currently
only had limited opportunities to fly the Heron UAV outside of military
controlled airspace. However, he foreshadowed an expanded future role for the
Heron and other ADF UAVs:
Our intention is to work with our civil agencies, and indeed
with other government departments, to understand that operating in this case a
Heron but any modern remotely piloted aircraft is not a dangerous situation,
that there are proper rules and engineering applications...When we get through
those gates, it will be outside of military airspace but not over built-up
areas. Then it will be further expanded.
The ADF's Heron UAV is expected to operate outside restricted military
airspace in Australia for the first time (flying from Rockhampton Airport in
Queensland) in mid-2015 as part of the joint Australia/US military training exercise
Despite general concerns with the reliability of UAVs, a high degree of
confidence was expressed in relation to the ADF's ability to safely operate
UAVs in civilian airspace. For example, the Australian Association for Unmanned
Risks associated with the use of unmanned platforms include
collision with other aircraft, people and property. From our perspective, the
ADF has successfully and safely integrated unmanned systems into Defence
controlled airspace during Iraq and Afghanistan deployments using a sensible
risk based approach. We hope that our civil regulator and industry can benefit
from lessons learned and processes adopted in order to progress regulations for
RPAs operations in Australian civil airspace.
On 29 May 2015, Airservices Australia and the RAAF entered into a
Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) regarding the operation of the Heron in
Australian civil airspace. The MoA sets out procedures to facilitate the
initial operation and integration of UAVs into civilian airspace, based on the
RAAF's airworthiness and aviation safety system.
Currently CASA deals with Defence use of UAVs on a 'case-by-case basis'
where under certain circumstances temporary restricted areas and permanent or
temporary danger areas to cover activities will be put in place.
In terms of regulators facilitating further use of civilian airspace by UAVs,
Mr Peter Cromarty from CASA observed:
I come to this with an open mind, but I also come to it with
a mind that I am the regulator, and I need to be convinced that it is
adequately safe, because otherwise I am going to be in front of the senators
trying to argue why I allowed something that crashed on somebody's head.
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