UAS technology must mature for civil flight: SACAA


The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) says unmanned aerial system (UAS) technology must further mature before regulators can certify them as safe for general use in civil airspace.

SACAA general manager for aircraft safety Obert Chakarisa yesterday told a meeting of the Unmanned Air Systems Study Group (UASSG) of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that it is critical that Unmanned Aircraft Systems be designed from the very beginning as safe and reliable systems.

The UASSG is holding a four-day meeting in SA to finalise a draft ICAO Circular on the use of UAS in civilian airspace.

Chakarisa says “industry in South Africa is yearning for … SACAA to expedite the process of finalising promulgation of the necessary aviation regulatory framework to ensure that the utilisation of UAS in the civil aviation sector…
“Whilst the SACAA acknowledges the huge expectations from the industry pertaining to the speedy introduction of UAS in the civil aviation sector, the SACAA is adamant that such regulatory promulgation will be undertaken in line with ICAO processes currently underway as well as using the international best practice as a reliable guide.,” he said.
“…we therefore join the chorus calling for manufacturers to invest in technologies that will make UAS safe and reliable. Having said that, we must point out that we are aware that some technologies are at an advanced stage, with the main challenge being to consolidate these technology gains in order to fit into these new types of aircraft.
“Key to this new safety technology is the development of reliable Sense-and-Avoid systems to ensure that these remotely piloted aircraft are able to spot and avoid other aircraft thereby effectively avoiding mid-air collisions. In addition, development of Air Traffic Detection Sensor Systems technologies, which will be capable of sensing aircraft beyond visual range, and will work in conjunction with Sense-and-Avoid systems to provide a comprehensive and timely solution to aircraft evasion in flight, should be carried out.”

Furthermore, automatic takeoff and landing capabilities should be developed to allow safer civil UAS operations,” he says.

SACAA says the finalisation of the document “will be a considerable milestone that is sure to open the skies for UAS.”

Pic: A Denel Seeker UAV.