Unmanned aircraft standards drafted by US firm

Standards for the operation of large Unmanned Aircraft (UA) in civilian areas in the US have been drafted by a specialist US firm.

The non-profit technological consultancy firm Radio Technical Commission of Aeronautics (RTCA) has developed a set of standards to regulate the use of UA in civilian areas.

The RTCA announced the standards on October 2. The standards focus on the scenario of UA flying to and from Class A airspace, which is between 5,500 and 18,000 metres above sea level.

The standards are divided into sections entitled Detect and Avoid (DAA) Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) for Verification and Validation and Command and Control (C2) Data Link Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) for Verification and Validation (Terrestrial).

The DAA section details collision prevention measures. It provides standards for collection of airborne sensors. Software on the aircraft combine the sensors’ outputs and send them to the pilot on the ground, who is subsequently able to estimate the location of other air traffic.

The C2 section deals with “command and control” between the pilot and the aircraft. It outlines standards that enable the pilot to safely manipulate the aircraft both on the ground and in the air. It is focused on the C Band and L Band telecommunication links.

The draft standards were developed by Special Committee 228, consisting of almost 500 industry and government representatives, and formed in 2013 by the RTCA.

The committee was tasked with developing standards for governing the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in civilian air space.

The USA’s civil aviation regulatory agency the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) incorporates the RTCA’s recommended standards into its regulations and advisory documents.

The RTCA’s recommended standards are also used as guides for manufacturers and designers in making and certifying equipment.