Drones Regulations and Their Effect on the Aviation Industry

Abstract

The capability of UAVs to prove highly beneficial in the aviation industry is being explored. The laws that are required to safeguard and ensure the safety of the public and vehicles in air traffic are less defined. The concerns such as interference with other aircraft, the probability of collision and security risks are mounting as the use of UAVs is increasing in the aviation industry. As the use of UAVs is growing, the efforts to make technology more efficient, which is used in drones, should be made to lower the risks associated with the use of UAVs. Once the technology is up to mark the aviation industry will be revolutionized with the widespread application of drones.

Keywords:  Drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Regulations, Effect, Aviation

Drones Regulations and Their Effect on the Aviation Industry

Drones, technically referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs, are the main components in the unmanned aircraft systems. Dating back to 1849, when they appeared in the form of balloon carriers (Buckley, 2006), drones have evolved and developed drastically over the passage of the last couple of centuries, with the highest surge observed in the 21st century as civilian drones gained a strong market. With their domains increasing from limited military usage to the fields of science, recreation, commerce, surveillance, photography and agriculture, there was an increasing need to limit and regulate the drones industry. In the United States of America, the Federal Aviation Authority has the responsibility of regulating these drones. These regulations have limited the progress of the drones, resulting in a major effect on the aviation industry. The paper tends to capture a brief history of drones, their evolution, regulations imposed by FAA and how it has negatively impacted the development of the aviation industry.

History & Evolution

A UAV or drone can be defined as “powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, n.d.). They have evolved significantly and in the recent years, they entered personal lives after being commercialized. With the diverse and increased usage in the United States of America and all around the world, it was the need of the hour to regulate the progress. For this purpose, organizations such as Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States of America, British Civil Association Authority (CAA) in the United Kingdoms, and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) globally constituted laws and regulations to legally monitor and supervise the usage.

The drones have been used extensively in the military fields even in the 20th century, however, the addition of civilian usage for recreation and commercial purpose took its strong roots in the current century. According to a recently published report, the number of drones registered with FAA as of January 2018 has reached over a million, including 878,000 hobbyists and 122,000 non-hobbyists (Rank, 2018). The report further revealed that there has been a drastic 112.8% increase in the drone registrations between May 2016 and January 2018. These alarmingly high numbers demand a regulatory authority that supervises, monitors, and regulates the rapidly growing industry. However, these legalities and regulations have not restricted the operations of their users but also capped the growth of the drone market.

While being in the military usage, the drones are operated in specified and restricted environments and controlled by professional personnel. On the other hand, if left unregulated, civilian usage of drones pose threat to the safety of pilots, people around them, infrastructure and privacy laws. Due to these reasons, it is not only necessary to register the UAVs and their pilots with an authoritative organization like FAA, but also to be able aware of the legal requirements. Some of the regulations have been discussed in this paper, and it will be considered how they have affected the growth of the aviation industry.

Regulations

One of the major reasons for limiting the full-scale growth of drones is the safety hazards. The standards of production are evolving rapidly and the certification authorities need to keep an up-to-date eye to adapt to the new environment. For this purpose, documents like DO-178C (Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification) and DO-254 (Design Assurance Guidance for Airborne Electronic Hardware) are used as a standard convention for guided development of UAS-related software and hardware respectively. This was followed by the publication of Circular 328 by International Civil Aviation Organization which specified that the safety requirements of a UAS should be similar to that of a manned aircraft, and because of this reason, it should follow the same governmental rules and regulations (ICAO, 2011).

The Line of Sight Rule

According to Section 336 of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, a drone must be “flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft (Public Law 112-95, 2018). While this may sound like a logical safety limitation, this rule single-handedly closed the doors for a large number of drone-related use cases. For example, the concept of delivering items using UAVs was one of the features that would have helped not only the drone industry but also, firms that offer home-delivery services for ordered products. However, with the law prohibiting the drone to go out of line-of-sight of the operator, this chapter was closed unless an amendment or reform is published that diminishes the limitation. This is the clear example of how the lack of properly thought rules and regulations can limit the highly useful applications of UAVs.

These UAVs which can be used to not only carry cargo but also they can prove useful in any natural crisis and calamity. The UAVs can be used to approach those areas where huge sized aircraft cannot reach and they can supply goods and even can be utilized to rescue people. For making sure that all of these aspects of using UAVs are addressed and achieved the rule of the line of sight must be reconsidered, but only by improving technology and control over these UAVs.

The Threat to Other Aircrafts

Drones, when operated in zones near airports, can prove to be threatening to other aircraft. FAA has already issued legislations involving the areas in vicinities of airports. “Drones flew too close to manned aircraft 1,200 times in 2015, according to the FAA. In 2016, that number jumped to 1,800 times. In 2017, there was an actual collision between an unmanned aircraft and a Blackhawk helicopter (Zazulia, 2018). It is crucial to apply ‘sense and avoid’ solution to detect any aircraft in the close vicinity of the drone so that any likelihood of the collision can be avoided within the proper time.

Some of the drones may possess the fancy range of capabilities to avoid the collisions or interference with other aircraft but others rely only on simple techniques to tackle the obstacles. The most concerning issue is the interference in the electromagnetic signals which are responsible for the safe flight of air crafts. The sharing of the airspace with all of the other air traffic should be safe, secure and highly accurate, otherwise, the interference of air traffic can result in horrible accidents. The signals from UAVs can interfere with the signals of other aircraft leading to the production of intermittent and interrupted signals which can severely damage the aircraft.

The hijacking of drones is threatening and hijacked drone can be used to destroy other aircraft making them a security risk. The safety of drones is even more challenging than the safety of aircraft as there is increased possibility of interference in signals and data along with the increase in electronic congestion which not only upsets the functionality of drone but it can also collide with other aircraft resulting in the catastrophic situation. “The researchers found that the drones’ rigid and dense materials such as metal, plastic and lithium batteries can put airplanes at much greater risk than a bird carcass. Kiran D’Souza, one of the authors, says that in every collision scenario with a drone there was at least minor damage to the plane and sometimes it was much more severe (Gulliver, 2018). Most of the airports ban drones from flying near them as these drones can be sucked by the airplanes and they damage their body parts and interfere in their path. “According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are around 100 cases each month of drones potentially endangering an aircraft, and two collisions have already happened in North America (Gulliver, 2018).

The drones are very small and much less obvious as compared to clearly visible aircraft which leads to severe complications and even impose a threat to the security at the national level. When the autonomous drones are in question, it becomes really risky as the devices and programs installed in drones are usually not efficient enough to cope with the sudden complications, natural crisis or shortage of data and collapse. So even with the pilot, the sustainability of drones cannot be guaranteed, the neutral control is even riskier and dangerous at so many levels.

Evolving Needs

FAA regulations on drones are in Part 107 of FAA regulations. FAA is having trouble making the rules due to the variety of drone’s types. “In some jurisdictions, local law enforcement groups have forced commercial operators of drones to ground their aircraft because commercial operations could create a “potential safety hazard.” Police have told commercial operators that their operation of drones without authorization could “violate federal aviation policy (Takahashi, Drones in the National Airspace, 2012). The federal government regulates and monitors the production, design, repair, and operation of all the aircraft similarly there should be comprehensive laws regarding drones too. “Unfortunately, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 does not provide a suitable framework for us to welcome the arrival of the Drones. The Act specifically embraces the idea that Drones differ so greatly from other commercial flying machines that they can only exist in the absence of comprehensive regulation (Takahashi, The Rise of the Drones  A Need for the Comprehensive Federal Regulation of Robot Aircraft, 2013).

The drones are manufactured in all shapes and sizes and they range from micro, mini, nano, and short to high and medium structures and limit of their range of impact. “The absence of absolute legal guidance with respect to the jurisdiction of UAV regulation, the definition of UAV, and the integration of UAVs in the national airspace prevents the optimum use of UAVs for the public benefit (Ravich).

To ensure the more creative ways of using UAVs, it is necessary that the proper legislation and monitoring are done so that there are no threats to the general public, other aircraft, and security concerns. The aim should be to make the use of drones easy in construction, industries, media, aviation, photography and for carrying cargo. All of these tasks can be accomplished by the proper development of technology which is used to build and manage drones, otherwise, drones will be seen as threats for always. It is required that the drones should be equipped with highly sophisticated and sensitive communication setup to avoid any miscommunication. Also, the signal receiving and transmitting setup of UAVs should be strong enough that it cannot be interrupted by any other electromagnetic fields passing in its vicinity.

“Drone technologies are subject to a range of regulatory measures that were created without drones specifically in mind. Many laws are broadly phrased and operate in a more or less technology-neutral fashion (Clarke & Moses, 2014). Once the law and standards are set, it will be easy for operators and manufacturers to figure out the exact mechanism of how to improve and evolve the structure and design of the drones. The drones will be able to collect even more data than humans at different sites, revolutionizing the business world. And this revolution can only happen with the development and implementation of right technology and design. The drone technology is still in its early stages and this technology cannot be completely trusted as it required multiple improvements to make it up to the mark. It is important that the evolution of drones take places so that they can compete in this burgeoning and complex market.

Addressing Drone-related Risks

The potential risk of drones to aviation is a little threatening. The drones could cause many issues regarding trafficking and many other issues. The use of drones can result in harm to the assets as well. “It is not only physical impacts that threaten assets. An out-of-control drone may surprise individuals in its vicinity, in some cases leading to accidents e.g. where a driver of a motor vehicle, or the pilot of another drone, loses control their vehicle or performs a dangerous avoidance maneuver (Clarke & Moses, 2014). The harm may not be done intentionally but there are multiple factors which impact on the performance of the drones. A lot has to be considered while operating drones as the operators are dependent on the information, commands, and data and these can be interfered by electromagnetic interference, signals being jammed or disruption in the software being used.

It is not possible to decline the impact of the natural crisis on the drones and their performance. The sudden fire, volcanic eruption, instability of the wind, and other harsh weather conditions are highly likely to influence the functionality of the drones which makes drones a risk. One of the main drone-related risks is the possibility of their collision with the military and the commercial aircraft. The risk that comes with the use of drones is their hijacking and the hijacked drone can be a security risk as it can be utilized for stealing sensitive information and data.

“The researchers said that drone manufacturer could reduce the potential risks if they used less metal in their devices. The research also highlights the need for automated systems on drones that sense other aircraft and move out of the way, they said (Levin, 2017). The laws regarding unmanned aerial vehicles vary to a great extent from country to country and it becomes difficult to manage drones according to the specific laws of that particular region. Also, it should be kept under consideration that when we are talking about drones, not only the federal government but the local government and the public is also involved. “Equipped with high-resolution cameras, the possibility of a private or government Drone obtaining information that breaches a citizen’s “reasonable expectation of privacy seems likely. Such a scenario triggers a visceral response among many civil libertarians (Takahashi, The Rise of the Drones  A Need for the Comprehensive Federal Regulation of Robot Aircraft, 2013).

Benefits to Aviation Industry

The Potential benefit of drones to aviation seems to be promising. Drones could benefit aviation in many ways, such as surveillance and search, monitoring and rescue. Drones are the epitome of technological development and its impact on various fields of life. In this age of advanced technology, it is indispensable to ignore the importance and vitality of drones. It is very important to distinguish between the commercial and other recreational uses of drones so that the drones can be utilized to their full potential. The aviation industry can utilize drones for safety checks and to detect security risks. The interesting usage of drones is to use them for keeping an eye over the perimeters of airports and to make sure that the area is clear for aircraft to take off. The drones can also be used to control and halt the interference of birds and wildlife on the outskirts of airports.

The most advanced and clever use of drones is to use them for transporting cargo, loads, and baggage. The drones can even be used for carrying passengers within the small distance. Few of many uses of drones include “Arial image- and data-capturing at construction sites, for use with Building Information Modeling (BIM), Safety and security consulting and Land surveying (Gmelin). The obvious use of drones that comes to the mind is their utilization in delivering small packages in both rural and urban areas without any damage.

Drones are highly effective for carrying goods to the remote areas. The drones can be used instead of aircraft in the time of crisis to transport medicines, food, drinking water and other goods. It will be easy for drones to reach such places as compared to aircraft which require highly intricate operations to be carried out.

But with the changing trends, it is crucial that the drones are built with highly advanced technology. The safety measures before using drones should be taken to avoid any accidents which have happened in recent years. The civil aviation authorities should work on developing safe, reliable and efficient technology for managing drones and to minimize threats imposed by drones in the sky. It is safe to say that drones are the future of transport and air cargo.

Conclusion

In the end, after talking about Drones history, FAA regulations on drones, the potential risk of drones, and finally the potential benefit of drones

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