Making room for UAV air space


THE long march towards allowing unmanned aerial vehicles to operate in civil airspace is taking another step with a scoping study to identify issues that might affect air-traffic management.

The Queensland University of Technology-led Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation has been commissioned by air-traffic management systems provider Thales to look at how controllers may have to deal with UAVs.

The study comes as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority reviews rules governing UAV flights as a result of the increasing demand, from border security to bushfire monitoring, power line surveillance and even whale tracking.

ARCAA director Duncan Campbell said the latest study, in collaboration with the Wackett Aerospace Research Centre at RMIT University, built on other areas of investigation at the centre. “It struck us that there hadn’t been much of a conversation around air-traffic management in controlled space,” he said.

“So we started thinking about what are the questions that really have to be answered in terms of procedures and technologies and all these sort of things. What did it look like on an air-traffic controller’s screen, for instance?”

Professor Campbell said the study would identify questions rather than provide answers, and was looking at CASA’s 2015-16 target dates for providing guidance materials and possibly revising the regulations. “So really it’s a study of what needs to be done.”

Among the issues will be the type of equipment UAVs will need to operate in or near integrated airspace and the type of aircraft required to carry it, as well as what controllers will need to be able to see, communicate with and separate the vehicles.

“So what we’re trying to do is say here are all the various options and the various scenarios that we can see, or at least that we need to research further and see what the real, viable solutions are,” Professor Campbell said.

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