AoC number


Primary domain


Secondary domain



Operations of military and civilian UAS in shared military, civilian, and special use airspace are on the increase due to economic and political drivers. Until recently, UAS mainly supported public operations such as military and boarder security functions. The list of potential uses is now rapidly expanding to encompass a broad range of other activities, including aerial photography, surveying land and crops, communications and broadcast, monitoring forest fires and environmental conditions, protecting infrastructures, and novel commercial applications such as delivery services. These vehicles will in some cases share airspace with commercial, passenger aircraft.

UAS are physically shrinking in size and becoming more heterogeneous as missions and emerging technologies evolve. UAS command and control technologies are also permitting highly self-coordinated and agile flight of swarms (groups) of UAS that has previously been impossible.

Cultural and technical differences among evolving command and control functions in the commercial UAS sector, military UAS, and those used in passenger-carrying commercial aviation need to be evaluated from a safety and operational perspective. Civilian/military UAS operations will need to be increasingly coordinated to minimize compromising the safety of commercial aviation.

Additionally, Unmanned aerial vehicle Traffic Management Systems (UTMS) are under developement that would enable ATM-like control of small, commercial UAS flying below 400 feet AGL. Such UAS employed for package dleivery, for instance woudl serve a large consumer market. See: UNIFLY UTMS. A product of UniFly (from: out of Belgium). UniflyUTMS is a software platform that allows the integration of low flying UAS into the aviation system while guaranteeing an equivalent level of safety in comparison with manned aviation. The platform is based on the existing technologies and standards already applicable in the aviation industry. UniflyUTMS checks upfront what regulations apply to the location where the UAS operator plans the operation. It also notifies the UAS operator and visualizes the UAS operations when potential conflicts occur. The real-time position of a UAS operation is shared into the aviation system, making it possible to intervene if an unexpected dangerous situation might occur.

Economic drivers as of March 2013*:

In the first three years following integration into the NAS, more than 70,000 new jobs will be created;

In the first three years following integration, the total economic impact stemming from the integration is projected to surpass $13.6 billion and will grow sustainably for the foreseeable future, cumulating in more than $82.1 billion in impact between 2015 and 2025. Economic impact includes the monies that flow to manufacturers and suppliers from the sale of new products as well as the taxes and monies that flow into communities and support the local businesses;

The study projects integration will lead to 103,776 new jobs nationally by 2025. Many of these jobs are portable and will gravitate toward states with favorable regulatory structures and infrastructure. Future events — such as the establishment of FAA Test Sites — will ultimately determine where many of these new jobs will flow;

Additional economic benefit will be seen through tax revenue to the states, which will total more than $482 million in the first decade following the integration; and

Every year that integration is delayed, the United States loses more than $10 billion in potential economic impact. This translates to a loss of $27.6 million per day that UAS are not integrated into the NAS.

Potential hazard

Hazards may arise in the following domains:

UAS Design Domain: includes all components, parts, and elements of an unmanned system. This includes the air vehicle, control stations, communication links, and any specialized launch and recovery equipment, and payload.
UAS Flight Crew Domain: includes the capabilities, human factors, and workload of the human pilot of the vehicle and operator of the payload.
UAS Operational Domain: includes the vehicle’s operations within both controlled and uncontrolled airspace, above both populated and unpopulated areas, over either land or water. This includes take off, landing, and any airport operations.

Close-calls and mid-air collision between passenger aircraft and UAS – loss of “see and avoid”

Inadequate coordination between military and civilian UAS in civilian airspace

Inadequate failsafe UAS designs and operations

Unmanned Aircraft loses control link and is not visible to ground based automation/ANSP, Unmanned Aircraft is executing the predetermined flight plan from the point it lost link.

Control link failure between UAS and ground station; equipment failure; intentional takeover

System latency: Time delay in telemetry update or lag in aircraft response to PIC commands or guidance from observer.

Hazards associated with possible use of TCAS for separation assurance given that TCAS was developed as a last resort airborne collision avoidance system: Failure of TCAS traffic display to provide necessary and sufficient information to establish a complete and accurate awareness of the traffic situation in the proximity of the UAS for functions beyond cuing the pilot for increased vigilance in visual acquisition and to prepare the pilot for an impending RA. Information provided on the TCAS traffic display also lacks supplemental information regarding its limitations and inaccuracies for the pilot’s use when formulating traffic situation awareness. TCAS display is subject to large discrepancies between intruder locations as presented on the traffic display versus their true locations. TCAS display lacks the ability to project future states of the intruder. Trajectory information must be estimated by a pilot’s sampling of traffic trends on the display over time. In environments where transponding is not required non-transponding aircraft will not appear on the TCAS display. Information presented on the TCAS traffic display provides inadequate information to establish awareness of the traffic situation. No mitigations could be identified which would reduce the risk of performing a horizontal or vertical maneuver to an acceptable level. Potential for misuse of the TCAS by a remote pilot presents an unacceptable risk. The TCAS system is not an alternate means of compliance, nor is it a means of partial compliance, with 14 CFR 91.111 and 91.113 to see and avoid and to remain well clear of other aircraft.

The State of Nevada research will include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. New York’s research will focus on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aid in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.

Safety levels be based on the UAV size, speed, operating environment, mission, or other criteria. The community needs appropriate measures for reliability (i.e., probability of total system failure or by component failure). Given that the vast majority of aviation fatalities today occur to persons onboard an aircraft (as opposed to third party fatalities), it is questionable whether UAVs need to be as safe as manned aircraft given that no onboard lives are at risk. There are however safety issues arising from UAVs dropping from the skies onto persons or property due to inappropriate reliablity levels.

Corroborating sources and comments

14 – X-47 B: “Therefore, prior to retiring the aircraft, the committee directs the Navy to evaluate if the Navy UCAS-D program can be used for additional risk reduction activities to minimize ship integration challenges for the future UCLASS programme.”

the X-47B unmanned jet, which successfully landed twice last week on an aircraft carrier, was unable to repeat the feat Monday, U.S. Navy sources confirmed July 16.”

“The aircraft nailed its first two landing attempts July 10 on the USS George H. W. Bush, but a third landing that day was aborted when the aircraft’s systems detected a problem with an onboard computer. Following its programming, the aircraft then flew to a ‘divert’ field at Wallops Island, Va., where it remains.”

“The final end-to-end test of the UCAS including multiple arrested landings, flight deck operations, steam catapults, to include hot refueling procedures, was accomplished on July 10 and the procedures, the X-47B aircraft and the entire carrier system passed with flying colors.’”

“During its final approach to the carrier on July 10, the X-47B aircraft, “Salty Dog 502”, self-detected a navigation computer anomaly that required the air vehicle to return to shore, where it landed at Wallops Island Air Field. The X-47B navigated to the facility and landed without incident. Salty Dog 502 is scheduled to fly back to Pax River later this week.

December 18, 2013:
• General Atomics tests UAV that can “sense and avoid” other aircraft;
• Federal Aviation Administration is testing the safety of commercial drones

December 30, 2013 – FAA Selects Six Sites for Unmanned Aircraft Research: After a rigorous 10-month selection process involving 25 proposals from 24 states, the Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators across the country.
In selecting the six test site operators, the FAA considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk. In totality, these six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs.

European Defence Agency (EDA) By Heiko Possel, Airworthiness Desk

U.S. reference: Challenges of Commercial UAV Operations in Civilian Airspace
Robert Morris, Principal Software Engineer, CDL Systems

Evaluation of Candidate Functions for Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System II (TCAS II)
On Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), March 21, 2011, TCAS on UAS Team, Federal Aviation Administration, Aviation Safety, Flight Standards Service, Unmanned Aircraft Program Office, AFS‐407

ASRS Database Report Set Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Reports: A sampling of reports involving Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) events;

Capability Safety Assessment of Trajectory Based Operations, December 21, 2011, Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) Trajectory Based Operations

* – The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States, March 2013, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International;
Co-author, Darryl Jenkins, was a member of the Executive Committee of the White House Conference on Aviation Safety and Security.

Last update