UAS test flights provide Valuable SMS data base for Certification and Initial Civil Operations

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General Atomics Successfully Flight Tests Sense and Avoid Functions on Predator B


The transfer of technology from military use of drones to the civil sector is remarkable. However, the missions and operating environments of each are sufficiently different that the acceptance into a National Airspace System should be carefully assessed.

The technical genius of using the Sense and Avoid (SAA) architecture and Self-Separation functionality to create an automated method to permit UAS aircraft into the civil ATC airspace is a good example of such a positive transfer, but these experiments should be used for greater safety purposes. General Dynamics is putting its Predator through tests in a controlled environment; should not those operations be captured through the SMS discipline?

That assessment of the SSA system the sense and avoid incidents should be recorded under the data capture and analytical tools of SMS to assess the numbers to better understand and mitigate the UAS operational risks. Not only will the SMS discipline contribute to the FAA certification of the SAA on this aircraft and of the Predator’s flights within the ATC, but the information will provide the FAA data to examine other UAVs.

From such a detailed UAS roadmap, the trend lines and lessons gained from SMS during certification should provide incredibly useful tools to the future commercial operations. Without those “precedents”, every UAS take-off and landing would be treated as a new event. Using SMS to establish a baseline will pass forward valuable knowledge.

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