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UAVOS continues to implement its unmanned aircraft conversion program

UAVOS has started testing its converted UVH-500 delivery unmanned aerial system
(UAS). Designed to compete in an advanced long-distance and intercity transportation
segment of the UAV delivery market, long-range heavy – lift  UVH-500 UAS is based
on the piloted CH7 helicopter platform.

The trial involves testing of the air basic aircraft systems, emergency operating modes including autorotation landing, flights with a cargo container weighing up to 287 lb (130 kg).   

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The UVH -500 has been created as a part of UAVOS’s pilot into unmanned aircraft
conversion programme and addresses the growing market of UAV cargo delivery. Measuring 23 ft (7 meters) long, 5 ft (1,50 meter) wide and 7,7 ft (2,35 meters) tall, and with a rotor diameter of 20,6 ft (6,28 meters), it is capable of carrying up to 353 lb (160 kg) with a range of up to 522 mi (840 km).

UAVOS’s conversion solutions incorporate installing an increased fuel tank and setting
repositioned and larger heat exchangers that make wider operational temperatures range. 

UAVOS’s parachute system has been installed as well. Сockpit, push/pull rods and flight
instruments have been removed. The autonomous system mounted on the UVH-500 belongs to a family of autopilot solutions developed by UAVOS. 

Enhancing the unmanned helicopter with UAVOS’s autopilot gives additional features and
advantages to the existing options: automatic take-off and landing, remote Ground Controls network capability, autorotation landing capability and high-efficiency flight control, based on TECS (Total Energy Control System). The aircraft is also equipped with Beyond Line-of-Sight (BLOS) data link system for over-the-horizon operations. 

UAVOS has vast experience with converting manned aircraft into unmanned platforms of
both helicopter and Fixed Wing types.

“We see conversion program opportunities as an answer to a global need in the UAV delivery market for the high lift capacity platforms which meet requirements of reducing emissions, low prices of shipping, creating a safer system for delivery, and delivering rapidly in out-of-the-way locations”, comments Aliaksei Stratsilatau, CEO and Lead Developer of UAVOS.
 
The advantage of the UVH-500 UAS is the fact that it can be operated in the areas without airfields, under severe weather conditions and during night-time, in the conditions with the high risk for the pilot.

The piloted helicopter is modified to cargo configuration to operate in remote areas. The
UVH-500 unmanned helicopter is able to send freight to destinations including islands,
mountain areas, remote construction sites and other similar locations. Using the most
progressive technologies developed by UAVOS,  the UVH-500 is an ideal platform for fast
and reliable transportation of humanitarian goods to rural areas.
 
“We see lots of benefits of traditional aircraft converted into UAV. The converted
aircraft are a cost-effective alternative to developing new UAV.  Among other things, the
CH7 helicopter we have used for conversion is aviation certified. The key to success in
converted UVH-500 is also to be found in the availability of the spare parts and basic technician training programmes”, adds Aliaksei Stratsilatau.  

UAVOS Company, a globally operating company with its offices in Hong Kong, the USA
and Europe, has recently raised a round of financing from a group of private investors – in order to further enhance its R&D efforts, reduce the go-to-market time for new solutions and also focus on promotion and commercialization.

UAVOS works directly with a number of large customers in different segments. Among UAVOS advanced ready-for-commercialization, unmanned technologies are unique High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) ApusDuo, the HiDRON stratospheric glider, a high-altitude platform for collecting meteorological data, and multiplatform autopilot solution for converting manned vehicles of all types into unmanned.

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Viasat, AeroVironment Team to Develop Enhanced Type 1 Encrypted Communications Capabilities for U.S. Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, and AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), today announced they will collaborate on a contract awarded under the U.S. Army Reconfigurable Communications for Small Unmanned Systems (RCSUS) initiative. The project will provide U.S. military customers flying small UAS platforms the ability to deploy a robust, on-demand, highly-secure communications network that will address the growing electronic warfare capabilities of peer and near-peer adversaries.

Viasat is the prime contractor on the award and will work with AeroVironment to develop and demonstrate advanced, encrypted communications suitable for AeroVironment’s portable, hand-launched Puma AE™ tactical UAS. The two companies will seek to strengthen the communications and transmission security of AeroVironment’s Digital Data Link™ (DDL) radios currently used by the U.S. Army by converting them into a Type 1 crypto communication system for video and data transmission.

In addition, Viasat and AeroVironment will develop critical interoperability standards for enabling UAS to generate a secure, digitally encrypted communications network—for protecting classified data and improving waveform performance in jamming environments—via the embedded DDL waveform. They will also create a standardized communications architecture that will allow UAS to access spectrum quickly and easily, especially when operating in contested environments.

“Viasat’s robust military-grade cryptography and electronic countermeasure tactical waveform design will enable quick expansion of secure communications to a variety of small unmanned systems operating at the tactical edge,” said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. “By collaborating with AeroVironment, an established leader in the tactical UAS sector, we can help the U.S. Army set new waveform standards that maximize connectivity and minimize the risk of signal intercept.”

Currently, tens of thousands of AeroVironment tactical unmanned aircraft are deployed around the world and are capable of serving as secure, digital network communication nodes for on-demand, mesh network applications in various operating environments.

“As U.S. forces plan for the potential of operating against peer and near-peer military adversaries possessing advanced electronic warfare capabilities, the need for even more secure communication capabilities is rapidly increasing,” said Scott Newbern, AeroVironment chief technology officer. “We will work with Viasat to provide customers requiring enhanced, secure communication capabilities with a portable, practical solution for maintaining secret-level communications via tactical unmanned aircraft systems operating at the battlefield’s edge.”

About AeroVironment, Inc.

AeroVironment (NASDAQ: AVAV) provides technology solutions at the intersection of robotics, sensors, software analytics and connectivity that deliver more actionable intelligence so you can proceed with certainty. Celebrating 50 years of innovation, AeroVironment is a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems and tactical missile systems and serves defence, government and commercial customers. For more information, visit www.avinc.com

About Viasat

Viasat is a global communications company that believes everyone and everything in the world can be connected. For more than 30 years, Viasat has helped shape how consumers, businesses, governments and militaries around the world communicate. Today, the Company is developing the ultimate global communications network to power high-quality, secure, affordable, fast connections to impact people’s lives anywhere they are—on the ground, in the air or at sea. To learn more about Viasat, visit: www.viasat.com

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AeroVironment Secures $8.4 Million Puma 3 AE Unmanned Aircraft Systems Foreign Military Sales Contract Award for U.S. Ally

Puma 3 AE (All Environment) is ideal for use in day, night, or low-light environments, and for land or maritime operations (Photo: AeroVironment)

AeroVironment, Inc., a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), today announced it secured a $8,371,332 firm-fixed-price U.S. Department of Defense FMS contract award on September 25, 2020 for Puma™ 3 AE tactical UAS, training and support to an allied nation. Delivery is anticipated by March 2021.

“The United States Department of Defense and the defense forces of 50 allied nations around the world rely on AeroVironment’s family of tactical unmanned aircraft systems to protect and empower frontline troops in the harshest operating environments,” said Rick Pedigo, vice president of sales and business development at AeroVironment. “With an unmatched track record for reliability and effectiveness in combat, training and humanitarian operations, and a roadmap of continuous enhancement and innovation into the future, customers can rely on AeroVironment to proceed with certainty into any operational scenario.”

The AeroVironment Puma 3 AE is a fully man-portable unmanned aircraft system designed for land and maritime operations. The hand-launched Puma 3 AE has a wingspan of 9.2 feet (2.8 meters), weighs 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) and operates for up to 2.5 hours at line-of-sight range of 20 kilometers with a standard antenna, and up to 60 kilometers with AeroVironment’s Long-Range Tracking Antenna. Capable of landing in water or on land, the all-environment Puma, with its Mantis i45 sensor suite, empowers the operator with extended flight time and a level of imaging capability never before available in the tactical UAS class.

To expand operational range, AeroVironment’s Long-Range Tracking Antenna (LRTA) can be used with Puma 3 AE, and all other Digital Data Link (DDL) equipped UAS,  increasing line-of-sight command and control up to 60 kilometers. The LRTA features a directional antenna mounted on a tracking positioner that allows for automatic or manual tracking of an aircraft at an extended stand-off range. In addition, an omnidirectional antenna provides redundancy and 360-degree coverage with reduced range capabilities. The LRTA is now offered in two versions – M1/2/5 and M3/4/6 – to support all DDL frequency bands and fit diverse mission needs.

About AeroVironment Tactical UAS

The RQ-20A/B Puma™Puma™ LE, RQ-11B Raven®, RQ-12A Wasp®together with the VAPOR® Helicopter comprise AeroVironment’s family of tactical unmanned aircraft systems. This family of systems provides increased capability to the warfighter that gives ground commanders the option of selecting the appropriate aircraft based on the type of mission to be performed. This increased capability has the potential to provide significant force protection and force multiplication benefits to small tactical units and security personnel. AeroVironment provides logistics services worldwide to ensure a consistently high level of operational readiness. AeroVironment has delivered thousands of new and replacement tactical unmanned air vehicles to customers within the United States and to 50 allied governments.

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General Aviation and unmanned aircraft communities set to benefit from fund to subsidise electronic conspicuity devices

Rebates of up to £250 for new Electronic Conspicuity (EC) devices are now available thanks to funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) aimed at encouraging more adoption of EC within the UK’s General Aviation (GA) and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) communities.

The CAA will distribute the funds via a rebate scheme which is open to applications for devices purchased before 28 February 2021 (or until the funding is used). Those meeting the requirements can claim a 50% rebate of the purchase cost of an EC device to a maximum of £250 (including VAT) per applicant.

Rob Bishton, CAA Group Director of Safety and Airspace Regulation, said: “’See and avoid’ remains the fundamental means of collision avoidance in Class G airspace.  Electronic conspicuity devices, used with an understanding of their benefits and limitations, can play an important role in improving situational awareness and reducing the risk of mid-air collisions in Class G airspace and airspace infringements.  Looking to the future, interoperable EC systems will also have a role to play in the on-going modernisation of the UK’s airspace structure; and enabling the safe and efficient integration of UAS operations with other airspace users.”

Full details on those eligible to apply, EC devices and how to claim a rebate are available on the CAA website at www.caa.co.uk/ec

The Department for Transport (DfT) has made available funding to encourage the adoption of Electronic Conspicuity (EC) within the UK’s General Aviation (GA) and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) communities.  The CAA is distributing these funds via a rebate scheme.

The scheme will open to applications from the 5 October 2020 until 31 March 2021 (or until the funding is used). Those meeting the requirements can claim a 50% rebate of the purchase cost of an EC device to a maximum of £250.00 (including VAT), per applicant. We anticipate up to 10,000 rebates will be available.

What are the requirements to apply?

  • Funding is for carry-on or aircraft-fitted devices only. Ground system components do not qualify for this scheme.
  • Applicants can claim a single rebate of 50% – up to £250 – on EC equipment purchased.
  • Only equipment purchased from 1st October 2020 until 28 February 2021 will be eligible for rebate. 
  • You must produce a proof of purchase receipt.
  • You must hold at least one of the following UK issued pilot licences (UK or EASA part FCL):
  • Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL)
  • Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL)
  • National PPL (NPPL)
  • Sailplane Pilot’s Licence (SPL)
  • Balloon Pilot’s Licence (BPL)
  • Light Aircraft Pilot’s Licence (LAPL)

Or be a registered member of either the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA) or the British Gliding Association (BGA).

  • Alternatively, if you are UAS/UAV operator then you must hold an authorisation issued specifically to them by the CAA (i.e. a permission, exemption or “operational authorisation”). General Exemptions, permissions or authorisations which are aimed at a wider and non specific group of operators are not included

What equipment is in scope of this rebate scheme?

We recognise that there are a range of EC solutions on the market that manufacturers and communities have developed for their own needs. 

The main equipment able to be used on an aircraft for EC purposes currently available (and that a refund can be claimed against) includes:

  • ADS-B Out capable transponder inclusive of GNSS position source (Mode S ES Enabled).  
  • ADS-B Out capable transponder without GNSS position source (Mode S ES)
  • Certified GNSS source for Mode S ES transponders (Including a GNSS position sources in line with the recently published AIC2019Y141, example being Trig TN72)
  • Power Flarm
  • Pilot Aware Rosetta
  • Sky Echo 2

We will consider requests from device manufacturers for alternative or newly developed equipment to be added on a case by case basis.

What do I need to consider before purchasing and using EC equipment?

‘See and avoid’ is the foundation for Visual Flight Rules flying in the UK.  EC devices can improve situational awareness for pilots but do not replace the fundamental role of ‘see and avoid’.  Pilots using EC devices should be aware of their functionality and what they can, and cannot, do.  Devices are not always interoperable with each other.  This means that users of one type of device may or may not be electronically visible to each other, may have different standards of reliability and accuracy, and may use different parts of the radio spectrum for transmitting signals.

The DfT and CAA are not recommending any specific device to pilots but do recommend that all pilots understand and consider the functional benefits, and limitations, of any EC device so they make informed decisions on the level of reliance that can be placed on the information provided to them.  

While not a definitive list the table below describes the currently most used EC technologies, a high-level understanding of the interoperability between them and which are certified.  

Conspicuity beacons Which traffic receivers can see them?  
ADS-B-in devices (certified) ADS-B in Rx Airborne Collision Awareness Systems (ACAS) Pilot AwareRosetta(PAW) Power FLARM Sky Echo 2 (SIL-1 Device) CAA CAP 1391 approved  
ADS-B Out transponder certified GPS Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes  
ADS-B out transponder uncertified GPS (Surveillance Integrity Level (SIL) 0) No*2 Variable*4 Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Power FLARM No No No Yes*1 Yes Yes*3  
Pilot Aware Rosetta(PAW) No No No Yes No No  
Sky Echo 2 (SIL-1 Device) CAA CAP 1391 approved Yes Variable*4 No Yes Yes Yes  
*1) Dependent on proximity to ground infrastructure
*2) Certified Traffic receivers normally exclude reports from transponders & beacons set to SIL 0
*3) New development requires a FLARM decode licence and a suitable display
*4) Transponders or beacons with a non-certified GPS (source integrity level 0) may not be detected by a certified ADS-B in device. Source integrity level 1 and above can be seen.
In the above table, the term certified means a device that has been tested for meeting ICAO standards and operates in the aviation spectrum. 

In parallel to the grant scheme, work will continue on a long-term strategy for EC in the UK. Surveillance technology will continue to develop quickly and, together with the DfT, we are open to exploring and embracing new technologies.  Applicants should be aware that in common with other technologies in any sector, any device purchased today is not necessarily guaranteed to meet any future EC requirements. 

How to apply

Applications can be made via our online stakeholder portal from 5 October 2020. You will be requested to register on the CAA online portal followed by submitting an online application form.

For all enquiries please contact us on [email protected]                                     

What is Electronic Conspicuity?

Electronic Conspicuity (EC) is an umbrella term for the technology that can help pilots, unmanned aircraft users and air traffic services be more aware of what is operating in surrounding airspace. EC includes the devices fitted to aircraft and unmanned systems that send out the information, and the supporting infrastructure to help them work together.  Airborne transponders, air traffic data displays, ground-based antennas and satellite surveillance services are all examples of EC.  The information generated by these can be presented to pilots and air traffic services visually, audibly or both to provide them with information on other traffic nearby.  This strengthens the principle of ‘see and avoid’ by adding the ability to ‘detect and be detected’.  To be most effective it needs 100% of users operating in a designated block of airspace using compatible EC devices, and be able to be detected by others.

EC can play a vital role in three key areas to support the UK’s Airspace Modernisation Strategy (AMS): 

1.     Enabling the on-going modernisation of the UK’s airspace structure and route network.

2.     Helping to mitigate the risk of mid-air collisions in Class G, and infringements into controlled airspace.

3.     Enabling the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft.

More information:

Airspace Modernisation Strategy

Information on EC devices www.caa.co.uk/cap1391

AIC2019Y141 : the steps that can be made to enable ‘ADS-B out’ throughout the General Aviation fleet to reflect recent changes and developments from EASA

Information for devices falling under CAP1391:  

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Virginia Tech’s site in the Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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September 30, 2020 — The use of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, continues to soar as more and more industries realize the wide range of services they can provide.

At Virginia Tech, research utilizing unmanned aircraft ranges from collecting pollen samples in plant sciences, to inspecting bridges and civil infrastructure, to making short-range humanitarian deliveries. While these small aircraft have proven to be extremely beneficial in places humans cannot easily reach, numerous research challenges related to operating safely and efficiently must be addressed in order to realize their full potential.

The Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems was formed to tackle these research challenges. Virginia Tech is celebrating five years as a member site of the center, which is a multi-university Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) sponsored by the National Science Foundation.   

“We currently have six major research universities with a big footprint in the unmanned aircraft sector collaborating together,” said Craig Woolsey, director of Virginia Tech’s site and professor in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. “Through the support of our industry and government partners, we are filling the research gap in areas that will make a lasting impact on the unmanned aircraft industry. Our research is geared toward making these small aircraft more perceptive, more agile, safer, and ultimately more capable.”  

Unmanned aircraft systems research at Virginia Tech existed long before the center was established. “What the Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems did for Virginia Tech was bring together researchers who wouldn’t normally be working together, resulting in a more meaningful product for the sponsors,” said Kevin Kochersberger, site co-director and associate professor of mechanical engineering. “Through this program, the Virginia Tech community is able to better support research where the interest is directed, encourage collaboration, and have the ability to expand programs that normally would not get such visibility.”

Virginia Tech was invited to join the center as a member site in 2015 by Brigham-Young University and the University of Colorado Boulder, and university sites have since been added at the University of Michigan and Texas A&M, with Penn State preparing to join. The center is the only National Science Foundation-funded unmanned aircraft research center in the country.

In the five years since becoming a member site, the Virginia Tech site has generated more than $2 million of external support for research related to unmanned aircraft. Approximately 75 percent of the site’s funding has come directly from past and present industry and government members, with the remainder provided by the National Science Foundation. By pooling small annual member fees under the NSF’s time-tested I/UCRC model, these funds have supported dozens of graduate and undergraduate researchers who are helping shape a new technology.

The center works with industry partners to develop new algorithms and architectures to advance the unmanned aircraft industry. In turn, these partnerships provide Virginia Tech students with cross-disciplinary training, as they will be the next generation of technical leaders in the field. The knowledge and intellectual property derived from the research helps industry members maintain their competitiveness in the global economy.

“We are extremely grateful to our government and industry partners, both past and present,” said Woolsey. “With their support, we are collectively working to advance autonomous system capabilities, including trustworthy flight control architectures, advanced visual perception strategies, and intelligent human/technology interfaces.”

Relationships driven by research

Through quarterly forums, the government and industry partners have direct oversight of selection and execution of research projects proposed by faculty members. By leveraging their research dollars and investing in the center, the partners in return have access to talent, university facilities, tools and resources, and research results. The I/UCRC model also helps to speed technology transfer to commercial products and services.

The relationships corporate and government partners build with the university also benefit their recruitment efforts, as the students involved in the research master essential theory and technologies that increase their impact as interns and future employees.

“New research ideas are continuing to crop up,” Woolsey said. “Innovations in unmanned aircraft evolve into other concepts, such as urban and rural air mobility and humanitarian uses. Part of the drive behind our research is that there are so many undiscovered needs around the world to get people and packages ‘up and over.’ ”

New challenges and opportunities ahead  

At Virginia Tech, a number of  faculty members throughout the College of Engineering are leading research initiatives with overarching themes related to unmanned aircraft.

  • • Woolsey and Kochersberger are teaming to develop intelligent visual tracking methods to enable drones to detect and avoid other small, unmanned aircraft, as well as larger manned aircraft. The team has developed technology that mimics human vision, combining an omnidirectional “peripheral vision” camera with a highly-focused, steerable “central vision” camera along with innovative algorithms to detect potential threats and determine where they’re going. An ongoing effort is focused on discovering individual and cooperative behaviors that improve detection and tracking.
  • • Through aerial mapping to document land registration data,unmanned aircraft systems to be useful in infrastructure assessment for disaster risk management. Low-cost drones using open-source code can assess building structural integrity and determine land instabilities where buildings may be more at risk to collapse or susceptible to flood damage. According to Kocherberger, developing nations or low resource communities with limited resources could greatly benefit from the data collected, in creating high resolution 3D models of their community for planning, and identifying storm water and land stability issues that may affect infrastructure.  
  • • Cameron Patterson, associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is developing hardware safety monitors to detect and mitigate malware threats; sensor and network attacks; software bugs; sensor, actuator and communication faults; and inadvertent or malicious operator errors during operation of a drone. The monitors may override the actuator commands when unsafe states or invalid state transitions are detected. Such methods will assist in making unmanned aircraft more robust, reliable, trustworthy, and cyberattack-resilient.
  • • Mazen Farhood, an associate professor of aerospace and ocean engineering, has been working on autonomy test and evaluation, verification, and validation of small unmanned aircraft systems. As the use of unmanned aircraft systems continues to expand and as the autonomy components enabling their operation become ever more sophisticated and interdependent, the certification challenge will grow in complexity. This project concentrated on robust motion planning and control for small, autonomous, fixed-wing aircraft, with a focus on composable reliability assurances.
  • • Woolsey is leading a separate National Science Foundation project with former C-UAS researchers Matthew Hebdon and Pratap Tokekar, along with associate professor Joe Gabbard in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, to develop drone technology that can assist in safer and more effective inspection of civil infrastructure, including hard-to-access spaces, such as bridges, tunnels, dams, towers, pipelines, and electrical transmission lines. The use of a drone for this type of assessment has the potential to make the inspection process safer and more efficient, thus enhancing public safety in the U.S. and around the world.


Students benefit from member support

As the unmanned aircraft industry continues to grow, so does student interest. Through funding support from industry and government partners, dozens of undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students at Virginia Tech have been granted opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research in a growing field.  Specifically at the Virginia Tech site, undergraduate students are heavily involved, as the heavy focus on experimental validation allows for participation at all student levels. 

According to Kochersberger, the center’s research not only brings faculty from partner universities together, but the students benefit from these relationships as well. Through quarterly meetings and collaborative projects, undergraduate and graduate students receive visibility with peer graduate programs, learn more about studies happening outside of Virginia Tech, and expand their professional networks. The center also provides a training ground for undergraduate researchers, as they prepare for the transition into graduate studies.

Throughout the past five years, students at all academic levels have been able to participate in research and training in flight control and sensor development; navigation and sense-and-avoid algorithm development; attack detection and mitigation; airframe fabrication; avionics integration; and pilot/observer/safety officer training.

The research also provides students the opportunity to contribute to numerous publications including theses and dissertations, journal papers, and conference papers. Beyond archiving important research outcomes, the publication process builds relevant technical communication skills and supports the development of the future workforce.

Reflecting on the past five years, the faculty at the Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems recognizes the unwavering support of  the College of Engineering, departmental leadership, and the Virginia Tech Office of Sponsored Programs, as well as  their flexibility in accommodating a unique model of research sponsorship.

 “As academic researchers, we are really fortunate to meet every three months with some of the most forward-thinking unmanned aircraft systems experts in American industry and government,” Woolsey said of his experience thus far with the center. “We are so proud to be working together to shape UAS technology as its value to society continues to grow.”

# # #

Contact: Suzanne Irby | [email protected] |

Online Link: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2020/09/cuas-five-years

Written by Jama Green

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GA-ASI Completes First Protector Unmanned Aircraft

On September 25th General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) completed the first flight of the Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), the fourth MQ-9B SkyGuardian air vehicle (the first three MQ-9B air vehicles are company-owned assets supporting the certification qualification).

The first Protector RPAS, known within GA-ASI as UK1, will be used to support system testing as part of a combined UK Ministry of Defence, U.S. Air Force and GA-ASI test team. Upon completion of this initial testing, UK1 will be delivered to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence in the summer of 2021, but will remain in the USA to complete the Royal Air Force’s test and evaluation program.

“It was exciting to see the first flight of MQ-9B in the Protector configuration,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “The Royal Air Force has been a great partner for GA-ASI for more than a decade. We’re thrilled to see this first customer aircraft completed and we look forward to delivering their Protector fleet and gaining more MQ-9B SkyGuardian customers in NATO and around the globe.”

MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPAS. The RPAS is available as the SkyGuardian, the maritime SeaGuardian (fitted with a multimode 360-degree field-of-regard Maritime Patrol Radar and optional sonobuoy capability) or, as with the UK Protector, in a special customer specified configuration. The first MQ-9B customer delivery will be to the UK, but the RPAS has also been selected by the Belgian Defense and Australian Defence Force, with significant interest from customers throughout the world.

“Protector will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours will offer a vastly improved ISTAR capability. Given that it is designed to fly in non-segregated, civil airspace, the Protector RPAS will be able to respond rapidly and offer flexibility, delivering many types of military or civil authority support missions, including search and rescue,” said Group Captain Shaun Gee, the RAF’s Director Air ISTAR Programmes.

 MQ-9B development began in 2014 as a company-funded program to deliver an RPAS to meet NATO’s stringent airworthiness type-certification standard (STANAG 4671). STANAG certification will enable SkyGuardian, SeaGuardian and other MQ-9B variants to operate in civil airspace and better perform border patrol, fire detection and firefighting support, maritime patrol, and resource monitoring missions. MQ-9B is provisioned for the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS) to enhance safety of operations in civil and military airspace. The MQ-9B is built for adverse-weather performance with lightning protection, a damage tolerant airframe, and a de-icing system.

Source: Press Release

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AeroVironment Teams with Robotic Skies for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Maintenance Support

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. and CHICAGO – AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), today announced a teaming agreement with Robotic Skies, a global maintenance, repair, and overhaul network for UAS, to provide field maintenance, inspection and repair support for AeroVironment customers.

Robotic Skies, through teaming agreements with companies such as AeroVironment, provides UAS fleet operators with local, aviation-grade maintenance services. The company offers a unique combination of expertise in unmanned aircraft systems and traditional aviation maintenance methodology to deliver high-quality, scalable services through its repair network.

“Our customers rely on AeroVironment’s market-leading unmanned aircraft systems to perform critical missions, making timely field maintenance and local support essential,” said Rick Pedigo, AeroVironment vice president of sales and business development. “By teaming with Robotic Skies, our valued customers can expect an even higher level of responsiveness and customer service through a broad service center network, which comprises 200 independently owned and operated, certified repair stations. This relationship will enable our customers to keep their UAS in operation, maximizing their productivity.”

Robotic Skies Founder and CEO, Brad Hayden, said: “We are excited to work with AeroVironment as they grow their fleet. For example, the VAPOR helicopter unmanned aircraft system is capable of operating beyond visual line of sight, and for customers flying under a FAA Part 107 line of sight waiver there are specific requirements to maintain the aircraft in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. With Robotic Skies, AeroVironment customers can get the benefit of high-quality, OEM-certified maintenance and the peace of mind knowing they can meet any maintenance-related waiver requirements.”

AeroVironment’s all-electric VAPOR helicopter UAS delivers 60 minutes of cruise endurance and up to 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of flexible payload capacity. VAPOR’s modular payload bay provides access to a variety of integrated sensors and third-party payloads including gimbaled EO/IR, survey grade PPK mapping, LiDAR and hyperspectral sensors, and an available Drop/Delivery Mechanism. VAPOR is multi-mission capable for defense, commercial and industrial applications, enabling customers to choose the right configuration based on mission requirements, and the flexibility to create custom configurations that incorporate end-user provided equipment.

AeroVironment customers who are interested in learning more about Robotic Skies’ maintenance services may contact AeroVironment at [email protected] or Robotic Skies at [email protected]

About AeroVironment, Inc.
AeroVironment (NASDAQ: AVAV) provides technology solutions at the intersection of robotics, sensors, software analytics and connectivity that deliver more actionable intelligence so you can proceed with certainty. Celebrating 50 years of innovation, AeroVironment is a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems and tactical missile systems, and serves defense, government and commercial customers. For more information, visit www.avinc.com.

About Robotic Skies, Inc.
Robotic Skies is a global network of maintenance Service Centers for enterprise Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) fleets. Founded in 2014, Robotic Skies has 200 independently owned and operated certified repair stations in its network (and growing), spanning more than 40 countries. The company’s aviation-grade field service programs are flexible, scalable, and meet the regulatory requirements for complex commercial operations like drone delivery. Learn more at www.roboticskies.com.

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MissionGo Delivers Organ via Unmanned Aircraft in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, Sept. 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — MissionGO, a provider of unmanned aviation solutions that are transforming logistics, and Nevada Donor Network, an organ procurement organization (OPO) serving the state of Nevada, today announced two successful test flights carrying a human organ and tissue via an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) on Sept. 17.

The first flight transported research corneas from Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center to Dignity Health – St. Rose Dominican, San Martín Campus. This flight successfully demonstrates the viability, value, efficiency gains, and delivery speed of lifesaving medical supplies and organs via UAS within an urban environment.

The second flight, which delivered a research kidney from an airport to a location outside of a small town in the Las Vegas desert, marked the longest organ delivery flight in UAS history. This flight surpassed the distance of a historic flight in April 2019 when MissionGO team members Anthony Pucciarella and Ryan Henderson, in their roles at the University of Maryland UAS Test Site and in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center, delivered the first kidney by UAS that was then successfully transplanted into a patient. 

“These flights are an exciting step forward – the research conducted during last week’s test flights are another data point to illustrate that unmanned aircraft are a reliable mode of transportation for life-saving cargo, and that MissionGO’s UAS are safe for both the payload and people on the ground – even at greater distances,” said Anthony Pucciarella, MissionGO President. “We are grateful to be testing our technology with our partners at the Nevada Donor Network and look forward to what we can achieve together with more research like this.”

Given that the majority of organs donated in Las Vegas must currently be shipped to recipients in other states due to limited transplant programs available locally, MissionGO’s second flight test underlined an exciting possibility for the future of organ transportation within the Las Vegas region specifically. The use of unmanned aircraft in a multimodal transportation chain will reduce the time between organ donation and transplantation, reduce the carbon footprint by using electric aircraft, and potentially expand organ procurement efficiency, saving more lives. The Nevada aviation research is the beginning of a series of medical and aviation research flights with OPOs in other regions.

“The success of last week’s tests launches us into the future of organ transportation and will enable us to be even more successful in the coming years,” said Joe Ferreira, CEO and President of Nevada Donor Network. “The work we’re doing now to maximize the gift of life and health can only be amplified with the services that MissionGO demonstrated. The future of organ donation and transplantation will be defined by innovation.”

In addition to proving the capabilities of UAS, these tests emphasized the feasibility of a touchless solution, reducing the number of handoffs by transporting the human organ directly between hospitals through the air, in lieu of ground-based couriers.

While MissionGO is focused on unmanned aircraft operations, its sister company MediGO is focused on improving organ transplant logistics across all modes of transportation. MediGO’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Scalea will analyze the kidney and corneas to study the transplant tissue architecture and cell viability before and after these flights. This analysis aims to clarify the effects that unmanned aircraft may have on human tissue and to confirm that organ transportation via UAS can be performed safely.

MissionGO has additional flight tests planned for later this year and throughout 2021 with additional OPO innovation partners across the country.

About MissionGO
MissionGO is setting a new standard for next-generation transportation logistics. By leveraging unmanned aircraft systems, MissionGO delivers improved reliability, reduced costs and increased transparency to benefit multiple sectors, including healthcare and retail. The company is led by CEO Scott Plank and funded by Scott Plank Ventures Impact investments. Learn more today at www.missiongo.io

About Nevada Donor Network
Nevada Donor Network is a federally designated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) committed to maximizing the gift of life and health through organ, eye and tissue donation. Established in 1987, Nevada Donor Network is one of only 58 OPOs in the U.S. serving more than 3 million people in the state of Nevada and 113,000 potential transplant recipients across the country. We work collaboratively with hospital staff and community partners to promote research and provide a strong support network to courageous donor families who’ve turned loss into hope. 

At Nevada Donor Network, we encourage Nevadans to help individuals in need of life-saving transplants through education, research and action. Nevada Donor Network is a member of Donate Life Nevada, an affiliate of Donate Life America, whose state-wide efforts encourage Nevadans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. For more information, please visit www.nvdonor.org

Contacts

Emily Burdeshaw                                                                   
REQ for MissionGO and MediGO
Phone: (703) 287-7819
[email protected]

Amy Larkin
MissionGO and MediGO
Phone: (443) 478-1208
[email protected]

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MissionGO Completes Longest Organ Delivery Flight via Unmanned Aircraft in Las Vegas

MissionGO, a provider of unmanned aviation solutions that are transforming logistics, and Nevada Donor Network, an organ procurement organization (OPO) serving the state of Nevada, today announced two successful test flights carrying a human organ and tissue via an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) on Sept. 17.

The first flight transported research corneas from Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center to Dignity Health – St. Rose Dominican, San Martín Campus. This flight successfully demonstrates the viability, value, efficiency gains, and delivery speed of lifesaving medical supplies and organs via UAS within an urban environment.

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The second flight, which delivered a research kidney from an airport to a location outside of a small town in the Las Vegas desert, marked the longest organ delivery flight in UAS history. This flight surpassed the distance of a historic flight in April 2019 when MissionGO team members Anthony Pucciarella and Ryan Henderson, in their roles at the University of Maryland UAS Test Site and in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center, delivered the first kidney by UAS that was then successfully transplanted into a patient. 

“These flights are an exciting step forward – the research conducted during last week’s test flights are another data point to illustrate that unmanned aircraft are a reliable mode of transportation for life-saving cargo, and that MissionGO’s UAS are safe for both the payload and people on the ground – even at greater distances,” said Anthony Pucciarella, MissionGO President. “We are grateful to be testing our technology with our partners at the Nevada Donor Network and look forward to what we can achieve together with more research like this.”

Given that the majority of organs donated in Las Vegas must currently be shipped to recipients in other states due to limited transplant programs available locally, MissionGO’s second flight test underlined an exciting possibility for the future of organ transportation within the Las Vegas region specifically. The use of unmanned aircraft in a multimodal transportation chain will reduce the time between organ donation and transplantation, reduce the carbon footprint by using electric aircraft, and potentially expand organ procurement efficiency, saving more lives. The Nevada aviation research is the beginning of a series of medical and aviation research flights with OPOs in other regions.

“The success of last week’s tests launches us into the future of organ transportation and will enable us to be even more successful in the coming years,” said Joe Ferreira, CEO and President of Nevada Donor Network. “The work we’re doing now to maximize the gift of life and health can only be amplified with the services that MissionGO demonstrated. The future of organ donation and transplantation will be defined by innovation.”

In addition to proving the capabilities of UAS, these tests emphasized the feasibility of a touchless solution, reducing the number of handoffs by transporting the human organ directly between hospitals through the air, in lieu of ground-based couriers.

While MissionGO is focused on unmanned aircraft operations, its sister company MediGO is focused on improving organ transplant logistics across all modes of transportation. MediGO’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Scalea will analyze the kidney and corneas to study the transplant tissue architecture and cell viability before and after these flights. This analysis aims to clarify the effects that unmanned aircraft may have on human tissue and to confirm that organ transportation via UAS can be performed safely.

MissionGO has additional flight tests planned for later this year and throughout 2021 with additional OPO innovation partners across the country.

About MissionGO
MissionGO is setting a new standard for next-generation transportation logistics. By leveraging unmanned aircraft systems, MissionGO delivers improved reliability, reduced costs and increased transparency to benefit multiple sectors, including healthcare and retail. The company is led by CEO Scott Plank and funded by Scott Plank Ventures Impact investments. Learn more today at www.missiongo.io

About Nevada Donor Network
Nevada Donor Network is a federally designated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) committed to maximizing the gift of life and health through organ, eye and tissue donation. Established in 1987, Nevada Donor Network is one of only 58 OPOs in the U.S. serving more than 3 million people in the state of Nevada and 113,000 potential transplant recipients across the country. We work collaboratively with hospital staff and community partners to promote research and provide a strong support network to courageous donor families who’ve turned loss into hope. 

At Nevada Donor Network, we encourage Nevadans to help individuals in need of life-saving transplants through education, research and action. Nevada Donor Network is a member of Donate Life Nevada, an affiliate of Donate Life America, whose state-wide efforts encourage Nevadans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. For more information, please visit www.nvdonor.org

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Type Certification of Certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its policy for the type certification of certain unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as a special class of aircraft. This policy is effective September 18, 2020.

In 2012, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95). Section 332 of Public Law 112-95 (codified at 49 U.S.C. 44802) directed the FAA to develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS). As part of that plan, the FAA issued the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems final rule (81 FR 42064, June 28, 2016), which added 14 CFR part 107 to the FAA’s regulations in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR).

Part 107 sets forth rules for the operation of small UAS [1that do not require FAA airworthiness certification. Under part 107, operations may not occur over persons,[2at night, generally above an altitude of 400 feet above ground level, or beyond visual line-of-sight, without a waiver issued by the FAA. UAS weighing 55 pounds or more and small UAS operating outside the limitations imposed by part 107 must receive airworthiness certification, a waiver, or an exemption as appropriate.

The FAA establishes airworthiness criteria and issues type certificates to ensure the safe operation of aircraft in accordance with 49 U.S.C. 44701(a) and 44704. Section 44704 requires the Administrator to find an aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, or appliance is properly designed and manufactured, performs properly, and meets the regulations and minimum standards prescribed under section 44701(a) before issuing a type certificate for it.

14 CFR part 21 contains the FAA’s procedural requirements for airworthiness and type certification. When the FAA promulgated part 21 as part of its recodification to combine and streamline the Civil Air Regulations, it originally required applicants for a type certificate to show that the product met existing airworthiness standards (29 FR 14562, October 24, 1964). Existing airworthiness standards for aircraft and other products, issued as a separate part of the FAA’s regulations, are: Normal category airplanes under 14 CFR part 23, transport category airplanes under 14 CFR part 25, normal category rotorcraft under 14 CFR part 27, transport category rotorcraft under 14 CFR part 29, manned free balloons under 14 CFR part 31, aircraft engines under 14 CFR part 33, and propellers under 14 CFR part 35.

The FAA subsequently amended part 21 to add procedural requirements for the issuance of type certificates for special classes of aircraft (52 FR 8040, March 13, 1987). In the final rule (amendment 21-60), the FAA explained that it intended the special class category to include, in part, those aircraft that would be eligible for a standard airworthiness certificate but for which certification standards do not exist due to their unique, novel, or unusual design features. The FAA further stated that the “decision to type certificate an aircraft in either the special class aircraft category or under . . . the FAR is entirely dependent upon the aircraft’s unique, novel, and/or unusual design features.” (52 FR 8041).

Specifically, the final rule (amendment 21-60) revised § 21.17(b) to include the certification procedure for special classes of aircraft. For special classes of aircraft, for which airworthiness standards have not been issued, the applicable airworthiness requirements will be the portions of those existing standards contained in parts 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33, and 35 found by the FAA to be appropriate for the aircraft and applicable to a specific type design, or such airworthiness criteria as the FAA may find provide an equivalent level of safety to those parts.

An “unmanned aircraft” is an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. See 49 U.S.C. 44801(11); 14 CFR 1.1. Unmanned aircraft include all classes of airplanes, rotorcraft, and powered-lift aircraft. Many UAS elements, while essential for safe operation, are part of the UAS system but are not permanent features of the unmanned aircraft. For example, instead of traditional landing gear with wheels and brakes, many UAS have a launch and recovery system. Additionally, because the pilot is not situated within the aircraft, unique configurations and applications of airframes, powerplants, fuels, and materials are possible and can result in flight characteristics different from those of conventional aircraft. These features specific to UAS are the very unique, novel, and/or unusual features the special class category was designed to accommodate.

A notice of policy and request for comments regarding the type certification of certain UAS was published in the Federal Register on February 3, 2020 (85 FR 5905). The public comment period for the notice closed on March 4, 2020. The notice proposed that some UAS with no occupants onboard may be type certificated as a special class of aircraft under § 21.17(b). The notice also proposed that for airplane and rotorcraft Start Printed Page 58252designs, when appropriate, the FAA may still issue type certificates under § 21.17(a).

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Discussion of Comments

The FAA received 66 comments. The majority of the commenters were individual UAS operators. The remaining commenters included UAS manufacturers, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and organizations such as the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Airlines for America (A4A), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the Commercial Drone Alliance (CDA), the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), SAE International (SAE), and the Small UAV Coalition. The following summarizes the comments received and the FAA’s response.

AIA, AOPA, A4A, Amazon Prime Air, the Choctaw Nation, the Commercial Drone Alliance, SAE, and twelve other commenters expressed support for the policy.

A. Certification Process

An anonymous commenter requested the FAA publish a timeline for the certification process. FAA Order 8110.4C, Type Certification, dated March 28, 2007,[3contains procedures and policy for the type certification of products. This order describes the FAA and applicant responsibilities in establishing a project schedule. The certification timeline for each project will vary significantly depending on the project details, scope, and complexity. Due to these many variables, the FAA is unable to publish a timeline specific to the type certification of UAS that would be widely applicable.

An individual requested that the FAA establish a less restrictive process for UAS type certification for first responders and emergency management operators for State agencies and subdivisions. The commenter suggested that because the primary job of emergency responders is public safety, the type certification process was burdensome and unwarranted. Certain FAA civil certification and safety oversight regulations do not apply to public aircraft. Aircraft that do not meet the qualifications for public aircraft status are civil aircraft.[4UAS operated by government agencies, law enforcement, and State public safety entities may qualify as public aircraft, as defined by statute under 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(41) and 40125.[5This policy for type certification of certain UAS only applies to civil aircraft.

Aero Systems West requested the FAA provide an accelerated process for small UAS with parachute safety systems installed. The commenter stated that controlling descent rate is the most important contributor to decreasing the probability of human injury during a UAS flight mishap. The FAA disagrees that a different process is appropriate for designs that incorporate a parachute system. While a parachute recovery system may mitigate some risks for a UAS, it is, by itself, unlikely to provide comprehensive mitigation of all potential risks such that an accelerated type certification process would be suitable.

Another individual questioned how the public could provide meaningful comments on the particularized airworthiness criteria for each applicant when the applicant’s proprietary operational and design data are normally withheld by the FAA. Under the process for certification as a special class of aircraft, the FAA will publish a notice for public comment on the particularized airworthiness criteria for each applicant. The commenter is correct that the FAA cannot disclose proprietary or confidential design data from manufacturers in these notices because such disclosure is prohibited by the Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1905 (1979). Instead, the FAA will provide a general description of the product, similar to what will be shown on the type certificate data sheet (TCDS). This is the same process the FAA has followed for the certification of special class aircraft such as gliders, airships, and very light airplanes.

The CNO and the CDA requested that the FAA clarify the effect of this policy on other rules. This request was specific to a statement in the proposed policy that the policy would apply only to the procedures for the type certification of UAS and is not intended to establish or impact other FAA rules (operations, pilot certification, or maintenance) regarding UAS. These commenters agreed that a type certificate will not provide a UAS operator with operational authority, but stated the FAA should clarify that the operating limitations in the TCDS will address, and therefore impact, issues such as operations, pilot certification, or maintenance. The FAA agrees that type certification of individual UAS may include operating limitations that impact operations, pilot certification, or maintenance. The purpose of the statement in the proposal was to advise the public that the FAA does not intend for this policy to overrule FAA regulations regarding UAS, particularly other FAA rules outside of part 21.

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B. Applicability of This Policy

An individual and AOPA requested that the FAA exempt model aircraft from this policy, and fifteen individual commenters objected to the policy contending that it would have a negative impact on hobbyists. The CNO and the CDA stated the policy should apply to all UAS regardless of weight. Several commenters requested that the FAA clarify the types of advanced operations, in addition to package delivery, affected by the policy and which UAS may require type certification.

This policy addresses the process the FAA will use to establish airworthiness standards for type certification of some UAS with no occupants onboard, when a UAS manufacturer requests type certification. Whether a UAS requires a type certificate depends upon the weight of the UAS, the purpose of the operations, and the particular operating rules under which the UAS is expected to operate.[6This policy does not apply to UAS that are operated under the exception for limited recreational operations, as they are not required to meet airworthiness requirements or apply for type certification.[7Small UAS operating under part 107 do not require a type certificate.[8UAS weighing 55 pounds or more and small UAS operating under the requirements of 14 CFR parts 91 or 135 require either a type certificate, a waiver, an exemption, or a special airworthiness certificate, as appropriate. Package delivery, for example, and other complex operations such as agricultural, inspection, monitoring, infrastructure surveillance, pseudo-satellites, or those involving carriage of other property for compensation or hire may be affected by this policy.

One commenter requested the policy not apply to UAS carrying occupants, as Start Printed Page 58253any occupant-carrying UAS should be certificated under the same process as manned aircraft. The FAA agrees. This policy addresses type certification of some UAS with no occupants onboard.

AIA requested that the scope of the policy also include optionally piloted aircraft. The commenter stated that optionally piloted aircraft are becoming increasingly possible as technology continues to mature. The FAA disagrees. An optionally piloted aircraft (OPA) is a manned aircraft that can be flown or controlled by the onboard pilot in command or by another individual from a location not onboard the aircraft.[9Although the method of controlling the aircraft is optional, in either case the pilot in command always remains onboard the aircraft. Thus, OPA are beyond the scope of this policy because they are not unmanned aircraft as defined by 49 U.S.C. 44801(11) and 14 CFR 1.1.

D. Requests for Changes to the Policy

The CNO and the CDA requested that the type certification policy be streamlined, flexible, and account for changing technologies. The commenters stated that the type certification process should take months instead of years and should accommodate innovation. The FAA responds that this policy provides a flexible type certification process that allows particularized airworthiness criteria for each product design. Under this policy, as technologies change and applicants propose innovative and unique type designs, so too may the airworthiness criteria evolve. The FAA further notes that the pace of any certification program is driven by many factors, including the complexity of the project and the applicant’s development and testing timelines.

Joby Aviation requested the FAA prioritize using existing airworthiness standards under the process in § 21.17(a) when a product closely matches the characteristics of the airplane or rotorcraft class and where special conditions (under § 21.16) can be reasonably used to address differences. The commenter stated the approach of using the flexibility of the special class process in § 21.17(b) makes sense for certain UAS or products where it is not reasonable to apply existing airworthiness standards. The purpose of this policy is to use the flexibility provided in the § 21.17(b) certification process to address the unique configurations and innovative applications of airframes, powerplants, fuels, and materials found in most UAS designs. For unmanned airplane and unmanned rotorcraft designs where the airworthiness standards in part 23 or 27, respectively, are appropriate for the certification basis, the FAA may still issue type certificates under the processes in §§ 21.16 and 21.17(a). The certification path for each individual UAS project will be based on applicability, relevance, appropriateness, and suitability.

Joby Aviation also requested that the FAA certificate passenger-carrying UAS under the existing, proven standards in part 23 or part 27, as appropriate to the individual aircraft design, under the process in § 21.17(a). Kilroy Aviation suggested a multi-tiered certification approach for UAS, with a tier for passenger-carrying UAS. These comments are beyond the scope of this policy, which does not apply to UAS that carry occupants.

Another commenter requested that the FAA define the certification types, methods, and timeline more thoroughly before issuing this policy. This commenter stated that the widely varying types and uses of UAS make one blanket type of certification ineffective, or even meaningless. The FAA notes that this policy is only a procedural policy for establishing the airworthiness standards for the type certification of some UAS. The notice of proposed policy requesting comments for the type certification of unmanned aircraft systems, which published in the Federal Register on February 3, 2020 (85 FR 5905), explained the legislative and regulatory history, background, and the FAA’s reasons for type certificating certain UAS as a special class of aircraft under § 21.17(b). The purpose of this policy is to provide a flexible process until generally applicable UAS airworthiness standards are identified and established. Under the process for certification as a special class of aircraft, the FAA will publish a notice seeking public comment on the particularized airworthiness criteria for each applicant. The particularized airworthiness criteria will not become final until the FAA considers any public comments and publishes the airworthiness criteria as the certification basis for the applicant’s design.

The PRC requested that the FAA’s policy use the three UAS categories (open, specific, and certified) proposed by the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) and issued by the European Union.[10This commenter also requested that the FAA timely inform international aviation partners of its UAS type certification standards. The FAA notes that this policy is only a procedural policy for establishing airworthiness standards for the type certification of certain UAS. If the FAA determines it appropriate, as UAS technology develops and generally applicable standards are identified, the FAA may establish standards through rulemaking. During those activities, the FAA would further evaluate the UAS categories established by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the diversity of UAS designs to help inform future agency action. The FAA will continue its collaboration with international partners in government and industry on UAS certification requirements.

Kilroy Aviation, the CNO, and the CDA commented on FAA resources for UAS certification projects. The CNO and the CDA requested the FAA allocate sufficient personnel to support the exponential increase in UAS certification projects. Kilroy Aviation requested the FAA delegate UAS compliance findings to designees. The FAA is committed to the safe and efficient integration of UAS into the NAS, and type certification of UAS is an important step in that process. The FAA will continue to assess its resources and make any necessary adjustments to process certification projects of UAS and other aircraft. However, comments regarding the delegation of UAS certification findings to designees are beyond the scope of this policy.

One commenter requested the policy prohibit UAS manufacturers from self-certifying their designs. This comment is beyond the scope of this policy. This policy outlines only the process for how the FAA will establish airworthiness standards for the type certification of certain UAS. FAA Order 8110.4C contains procedures and policy for the type certification of products, including how an applicant for a type certificate demonstrates compliance.

The CNO and the CDA requested the FAA ensure early and frequent coordination among FAA offices. These commenters stated that inter-office coordination between those responsible for issuing the type certificate and those responsible for issuing operational authority was critical, so that applicants have the authority to operate the UAS when its type certificate is issued. The FAA agrees. A type certificate is a design approval and only one of several Start Printed Page 58254requirements (airworthiness, pilot certification, registration, air traffic control authorization, air carrier certification, etc.) that must be met for an aircraft to operate in the NAS. The FAA established the UAS Integration Office to facilitate coordination amongst FAA offices on UAS activities.

ALPA requested the FAA limit the duration of the policy to not more than two years, as the process should only be interim until the FAA develops certification regulations specifically designed for UAS. The FAA does not agree. At this time, it is not possible to foresee when generally applicable airworthiness standards for UAS would be established or what form they may take. The FAA may supersede this policy at any time by issuing generally applicable standards through rulemaking.

An individual requested the policy define unmanned aircraft using consistent taxonomy. This commenter noted that many common UAS designs are not easy to categorize as an airplane, rotorcraft, or hybrid lift. This commenter also requested that the policy define the term “unmanned aircraft system,” as that term is not defined in 14 CFR 1.1. The FAA agrees that UAS designs are diverse. However, this policy only addresses the process for how the FAA will establish airworthiness standards for the type certification of certain UAS as a special class. Although there is no corresponding definition in 14 CFR part 1, the term “unmanned aircraft system” is defined by statute at 49 U.S.C. 44801(12) as an unmanned aircraft and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the unmanned aircraft) that are required for the operator to operate safely and efficiently in the NAS.[11]

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E. Airworthiness Criteria for UAS

ALPA, the CNO, the CDA, NAAA, Wing Aviation LLC (Wing Aviation), Kilroy Aviation, Valqari LLC, and six individual commenters requested the FAA adopt specific airworthiness criteria for UAS. These criteria included subjects such as weather, collision avoidance, marking and coloring, strobe lighting, system safety assessments, payload, weight, software, propeller shrouds and other safety equipment, noise, batteries, public safety, and control stations. Kilroy Aviation requested the FAA consider using the certification criteria for “small category VTOL aircraft” adopted by EASA. Amazon Prime Air requested that, while the FAA uses the process under § 21.17(b) for type certification, the agency also form a working group to evaluate and create new rules for UAS airworthiness standards. These comments are beyond the scope of this policy. This policy outlines only the procedures for how the FAA will establish airworthiness standards for the type certification of certain UAS. The particularized airworthiness criteria for each applicant will vary as appropriate and applicable to the specific UAS design. The FAA will announce and seek public comment on the airworthiness criteria for each applicant. The FAA will also continue to work with the public, industry, other civil aviation authorities, and standards development organizations to create and refine standards and policy for UAS.

Wing Aviation and other commenters requested the airworthiness criteria for UAS be performance-based. The FAA agrees and anticipates issuing performance-based airworthiness criteria based on each applicant’s design when possible. The FAA will announce and seek public comment on these criteria for each applicant.

Kilroy Aviation, the CNO, and the CDA requested the FAA harmonize UAS certification standards with EASA and other foreign civil aviation authorities. The FAA agrees that having harmonization and consistency on UAS policy and requirements with foreign authorities is prudent; however, the implementation of this comment is beyond the scope of this policy.

F. Operational Rules for UAS

The CNO, the CDA, Valqari LLC, and three individual commenters requested the FAA adopt specific criteria and rules for UAS based on operational factors. These factors included beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations (especially in rural areas), designated airspace below 400 feet for agricultural drone use, night operations, and location of the UAS operation. Operational considerations, such as BVLOS and detect and avoid requirements, are beyond the scope of this policy.

Several commenters also requested that the policy be risk-based and account for the specific risks encountered by each UAS within its operating environment. The FAA agrees and plans to use a risk-based approach for UAS type certification. The FAA anticipates issuing performance-based airworthiness criteria for each individual applicant’s design. For example, some applicants will demonstrate compliance with the criteria by durability and reliability (D&R) testing at a level tailored for the design based on its risk. The D&R testing would result in an acceptable number of successful flight hours, representative of mission cycles to substantiate the overall reliability of the UAS.

Several commenters requested that the FAA restrict UAS operations over residential areas and schools and provide protections for citizens’ right to privacy. The operational issues raised by these comments are beyond the scope of this policy, which is limited to the process for establishing airworthiness standards for type certification.

The CNO, the CDA, and an individual requested that the FAA combine operational authority with the issuance of the type certificate. These commenters suggested that since the airworthiness criteria for each type-certificated UAS will go through the public notice and comment process, that process should include any exemptions from parts 91 and 61 (general operating and flight rules and flight crew certification requirements) necessary to operate. These commenters further suggested that the conditions and limitations typically included in the grant of an exemption could then be incorporated on the TCDS as operating limitations. This policy outlines the process for how the FAA will establish airworthiness standards for the type certification of certain UAS. The process for granting relief from operational and airmen certification rules is addressed in 14 CFR part 11.

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G. Request for Generally Applicable Standards

Kilroy Aviation, the CNO, the CDA, and an individual requested that the FAA issue additional guidance or rulemaking or recognize standards for UAS certification in a timely manner. The FAA is committed to developing the regulations, policy, procedures, guidance material, and training requirements necessary to support the safe and efficient integration of UAS into the NAS. The implementation of these activities is beyond the scope of this policy.

H. Comments Regarding Airmen

Droneport Texas LLC requested the FAA update remote pilot training requirements and study aids so pilots are aware of the distinctions for type-certificated UAS. This commenter also requested the FAA create specialized training for maintainers, operators, and remote pilots of UAS type certificated as a special class of aircraft. One individual requested the FAA develop Start Printed Page 58255different classes of recreational UAS pilots. Another individual requested the FAA create specific aircraft type ratings for remote pilots. However, the airmen training and certification issues raised by these comments are beyond the scope of this policy, which is limited to the process for type certification.

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I. Requests for the FAA To Withdraw the Policy

An anonymous commenter opposed the policy and stated it will stifle innovation, limit recreation, and unnecessarily intrude on personal freedoms. Fifteen individual commenters opposed the policy based on concerns it would overburden hobbyists and negatively impact the model aircraft community. The FAA infers that these commenters would like the FAA to withdraw the policy. This policy will not burden or negatively impact a person conducting limited recreational operations with a small unmanned aircraft under 49 U.S.C. 44809, because type certification is not required for these operations. For other UAS, type certification may be required, depending on the weight of the UAS, the purpose of the operations, and the operating rules to which the UAS is subject. This policy provides a timely and flexible type certification process to ensure that a UAS design complies with appropriate safety standards.

J. Requests for an Extension of the Comment Period

Two individual commenters requested that the FAA extend the comment period in order to solicit additional input and define additional requirements. These comments noted that the comment period for this notice overlapped with the comment period for the FAA’s proposed rulemaking on remote identification of UAS (84 FR 72438, December 31, 2019). The FAA has considered the request and determined that 30 days provided an appropriate time for comment on the proposed policy, as sufficient feedback on the policy was provided by the public during the comment period.

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K. Comments on Other FAA Rules

Some commenters expressed concerns about the FAA’s proposed remote identification rule. Other commenters stated opposition to FAA’s rules for small UAS in part 107. DJI Technology, Inc., commented on operations and associated waivers under part 107. Because these comments concern FAA rulemakings on other issues, they are outside the scope of this policy.

L. Other Out of Scope Comments

Two commenters requested the FAA address UAS-related products (3-D printed parts, test benches). DJI Technology, Inc., requested that the FAA revise its regulations to allow American companies to manufacture UAS at facilities outside the United States. An individual commenter requested that the FAA revise 14 CFR 21.25(a)(1) to allow UAS as a special purpose operation for issuance of a restricted category type certificate. These comments are outside the scope of this policy, which specifies a process for establishing airworthiness standards for type certification of certain UAS.

The FAA also received and reviewed several comments that were very general, stated the commenter’s viewpoint without a suggestion specific to the policy, or did not make a request the FAA can act on. These comments are outside the scope of this policy.

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Policy

The FAA has determined that some UAS may be type certificated as a “special class” of aircraft under § 21.17(b). The FAA will issue type certificates for UAS with no occupants onboard under the process in § 21.17(b). However, the FAA may still issue type certificates under § 21.17(a) for airplane and rotorcraft UAS designs where the airworthiness standards in part 23, 25, 27 or 29, respectively, are appropriate for the certification basis. This policy applies only to the procedures for the type certification of UAS, and is not intended to establish policy impacting other FAA rules pertaining to unmanned aircraft, such as operations, pilot certification, or maintenance.

The FAA will seek public comment on the particularized airworthiness criteria for each applicant as certification standards for this new special class evolve. Once generally applicable standards are identified, the FAA may conduct rulemaking.

The FAA’s part 107 rulemaking on small UAS was only the first step in the FAA’s plan to integrate UAS into the NAS. Many long-term activities are required for full integration of present and future UAS operations, which will include the delivery of packages and transportation of people. The UAS affected by this policy will include those used for package delivery. Future FAA activity, through either further policy or rulemaking, will address type certification for UAS carrying occupants.

The contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.

Issued in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 11, 2020.

Pat Mullen,

Manager, Small Airplane Standards Branch, Policy and Innovation Division, Aircraft Certification Service.

1.  See 14 CFR 107.3.Back to Citation

2.  But see the FAA’s proposed amendment to part 107 to allow operations of small UAS over people in certain conditions (84 FR 3856, February 13, 2019).Back to Citation

3.  You can find this order at http://www.faa.gov/​regulations_​policies/​orders_​notices.Back to Citation

4.  49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(16).Back to Citation

5.  Title 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(41) provides the definition of “public aircraft” and § 40125 provides the qualifications for public aircraft status. Additional information on public aircraft is provided in Advisory Circular (AC) 00-1.1B, Public Aircraft Operations—Manned and Unmanned. This AC is available at https://www.faa.gov/​documentLibrary/​media/​Advisory_​Circular/​AC_​00-1.1B.pdf.Back to Citation

6.  Additional information about the rules for each type of UAS user can be found at https://www.faa.gov/​uas/​.Back to Citation

7.  See 49 U.S.C. 44809.Back to Citation

8.  See 14 CFR 21.1(a).Back to Citation

9.  See Appendix F of FAA Order 8130.34D, Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Optionally Piloted Aircraft, dated September 8, 2017. You can find this order at http://www.faa.gov/​regulations_​policies/​orders_​notices.Back to Citation

10.  https://www.consilium.europa.eu/​media/​40525/​delegated-act_​drones.pdf.Back to Citation

11.  See also 14 CFR 107.3.Back to Citation

[FR Doc. 2020-17882 Filed 9-17-20; 8:45 am]

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