Thursday, September 21, 2017

United Nations Aviation Arm Seeks to Establish Global Drone Guidelines: Gathering highlights how agency is considering novel ways to establish oversight of the booming industry

The Wall Street Journal 
By Andy Pasztor
Sept. 21, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET

Prompted by the proliferation of drones, international aviation authorities on Friday will kick off a first-of-its-kind symposium soliciting industry ideas about potential global operating standards.

The two-day event in Montreal, sponsored by the aviation arm of the United Nations, isn’t likely to produce specific rules or even a consensus around general principles. It’s not intended to prompt any country to immediately adopt new regulations.

But the unusual gathering scheduled at the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization amounts to an explicit invitation to drone proponents to offer help and direction. It highlights how rapidly unmanned-aircraft technology is outpacing government controls in most countries, and that the U.N. agency is considering novel ways to establish oversight of the booming industry.

“We are not very well suited to deal with” such rapid growth, said Stephen Creamer, ICAO’s top safety official. The goal, he said in an interview, is “to identify the problem the industry thinks it has” with current regulatory schemes and provide a platform for suggested alternative approaches.

Participants are expected to include Inc., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Boeing Co. , General Electric Co. , two leading industry trade associations and researchers from China and Brazil.

With the number of users skyrocketing everywhere, traditional regulators face tough safety questions even as they struggle with security and privacy issues they never before had to confront.

Most places around the globe, commercial drone manufacturers and operators are chafing at regulatory limits. In Europe, for instance, aviation experts say a huge chunk of its airspace is off-limits to drones because of terrorism and other security concerns. In Canada, a top aviation regulator recently urged citizens to immediately call police if they see remotely questionable drone activity.

And in the U.S., where commercial drones were basically banned from the skies until 2016, their numbers are projected to top 1 million within four years. Yet the Federal Aviation Administration is likely to maintain most current restrictions for a year or more, until it issues the next round of final regulations intended to authorize flights over populated areas or beyond sight of operators on the ground.

“These aircraft have taken the world by storm” with uses “evolving and expanding on an almost daily basis,” John Duncan, the head of the FAA’s flight standards service, told a U.S.-European safety conference in Brussels earlier this year.

Mr. Duncan said “we all figured out quickly it’s not a fad,” but warned the audience “we can’t afford to be cavalier with integration” of drones and manned aircraft because U.S. airspace is “neither a playground nor a proving ground” for such efforts.

At the same conference, Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency, said overseeing drones is “extremely challenging for an organization such as” EASA, because it typically takes years to certify new equipment. Now, “fixes are coming in a matter of hours or weeks” from drone manufacturers, he said.

“It’s completely changing the relationship between stakeholders” and regulators, he added, noting that voluntary compliance with industry standards is the path to pursue. In general, Mr. Ky, who is Europe’s top air-safety regulator, said “we are not going to rely so much in Europe on rules anymore.”

Leaders of ICAO, which comprises 191 member states, seek to serve as catalysts to help simplify and accelerate industry-government cooperation world-wide. Waiting years for individual countries to adopt mandatory rules and then trying to harmonize them into common guidelines spanning so many borders would take too long, Mr. Creamer said last week.

Instead, he indicated ICAO increasingly is leaning toward promoting largely voluntary, industry-crafted standards that would prevail across the globe. Already, a consensus is emerging that a separate air-traffic control network proposed for the U.S. to handle drone traffic at low altitudes will be a private entity.

ICAO, for its part, is considering setting up a centralized information-sharing system for drone registrations. At least that would ensure a way for national authorities to query multiple foreign databases to identify drones spotted over their territories.

Mr. Creamer sees this week’s discussions as the start of a much longer debate. With security officials intent on protecting sensitive sites and airport operators intent on keeping drones out of approach and departure zones, he said “public safety in the age of terrorism is causing concern” world-wide.

As a result, Mr. Creamer said, “the default response in many countries is a blanket ban on flying,” which further frustrates both recreational and commercial users.

Original article can be found here ➤

1 comment:

  1. Great plan. Have the same failed and criminal agency that exploited Iraqi oil for their own personal benefit, couldn't force Saddam's hand on inspections, loses every peacekeeping battle in Africa, and takes sides against the U.S. because we don't want any stinking one world government controlled by communists and European statistics to be in charge of anything on a worldwide basis.