Collaboration crucial in combatting drone-related disruption

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The Airports Council International (ACI) has emphasized the need for collaboration and the development of globally harmonized regulations and standards to help airports address the risks posed by drone-related disruption to aircraft operations.

Speaking at Airports Canada 2019, ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said that all players must play a part in keeping airspace and airports safe when it comes to drones.

“This is a growing threat that will require a great deal of collaboration among the ‘legacy’ aviation stakeholders and the manufacturers and users of the new aviation modes, as well as governments, which will set the rules to safeguard aviation users and the general population,” she said.

“Keeping airspace and airports safe needs the development of globally harmonized regulations and standards for the operation of drones, within a framework that promotes the safety of all aircraft sharing the skies. Airports have a vested interest, and need to be included, in the planning and development of national regulations and standards that determine how ‘useful’ drones will be integrated into the aviation system and unwanted drones will be kept away from sensitive areas.”

Since 2016, ACI has been advocating two main points. Firstly, that the key authorities for enforcement activities and initiating anti-drone measures are the relevant national authority and local law enforcement agencies and, secondly, that it is incumbent on all industry stakeholders to protect themselves and to work in coordination with each other.

ACI published an advisory bulletin in January 2019, encouraging airports to initiate dialog with their national authorities and local law enforcement agencies, on a risk-based approach, and to draw up a Concept of Operations and Standard Operating Procedures for anti-drone measures at airports in advance, stating how a sighting or detection will be classified, and what action will be taken and by whom.

Gittens also spoke about the development of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) for drones, which would manage drones in low level airspace and complement conventional Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems, helping airports to control risk and determine which are the non-cooperative drones.

“An effective interface between the UTM and ATM systems in the near future and their eventual merger into a single system has the potential to enhance the safety, security and efficiency of the entire aviation community,” said Angela Gittens. “Such a system could have the potential to lead us safely into the future of aviation that is expected to see drone operations surpass the number of manned aircraft operations. For this, we will also need harmonized regulations.”

The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) recently announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Mitigation at Airports. This brings together a cross-section of stakeholders representing the airport, UAS and manned aviation communities to refine procedural practices and provide a policy framework to address the timely and critical issue of incursions by unauthorized UAS at airports and how best to mitigate this threat.

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Tara has worked for UKi Media & Events since 2013, initially as a freelancer. She has been a journalist for over a decade and has worked for a range of publications, including Personnel Today, Management Today and The Grocer.

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