Feb. 10, 2016

Representatives from 25 nations and dozens of aviation groups – including NBAA – will head to Montreal, Canada next month for the fourth meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Panel on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).

Sarah Wolf, NBAA’s senior manager for security and facilitation, has been designated as the International Business Aviation Council’s representative at the talks, which are aimed at creating a framework for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) across borders and over international waters.

“This panel is full of a number of working groups focused on a variety of issues,” said Wolf. “But ultimately, much of our work is aimed at the increasing demands of RPAS operators to fly in non-segregated airspace and at aerodromes.”

The RPAS panel discussion will take place March 7 to 11. Members and observers will examine proposed standards and regulations pertaining to the certification of RPAS operators, licensing of remote pilots and the methodology that will govern the ability of UAS to detect and avoid conflicting air traffic and obstacles on the ground.

The panel and its groups are working on a number of deadlines, ranging from 2018 through 2020 and beyond, Wolf said.

“I’m going basically as a general aviation representative,” she said. “But we (observers who represent various aviation groups worldwide) are considered subject-matter experts. So we’ll work through a list of issues to see where we agree and disagree. I’m an active participant in that process.”

For example, Wolf said there are discussions among the RPAS panel members on the role FBOs will play in UAS operations. Some FBOs want to act as charging stations for electrically powered UASs, while others want to be involved in the fueling and maintenance of larger aerial vehicles.

“We’ll be there to make sure they’re all represented in an open way so that no one gets an unfair advantage,” explained Wolf.

The panel will also discuss matters of equipment and operational compatibility. For example, Wolf cited a scenario where a UAS crosses the border between the United States and Mexico. In that situation, control of the vehicle would transfer from a remote operator on one side of the border to an operator on the other side.

“There will have to be commonality in language, terms, equipment and airspace regulation,” she said.