The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, has begun to lay the groundworks of what will become a low-altitude traffic management guidance for domestic unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). In September this year, the organization will host their second Drone Enable/2 Symposium to facilitate a global approach to safely integrate UAS traffic management systems into the existing manned airspace. Drone industry experts, innovators, and academia are invited to submit their proposals ahead of this year’s event in Chengdu, China.

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Drone Enable/2 Symposium

This year, the ICAO will host their second Drone Enable/2 Symposium in Chengdu, China. The organization recognizes that for the drone industry to take off and flying taxis, drone inspections, and drone deliveries will become a reality, a global approach is needed. Therefore the ICAO invites drone industry experts, innovators, and academia to submit their ideas and proposals to safely integrate an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management solution into the existing airspace of manned aircraft ahead of this year’s event. Interested parties can contribute to the 2018 ICAO RFI via the UN aviation agency’s Unmanned Aviation website.

“Many new proposals and innovations are emerging on a daily basis regarding unmanned aircraft and their operations at low altitudes,” commented ICAO’s council president Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu in a press release. “ICAO is the natural agency to bring together the best and brightest from government and industry to define how these aircraft can be safely integrated into modern airspace, and in a way that optimizes their benefits globally for the wide range of public and private sector operators.”

Governments around the world have asked the ICAO to develop a practical regulatory framework for national UAS activities, in addition to the standards it was already developing for international operations.

“Multiple states and regional groups have activities underway to establish a UAS airspace management tool for lower altitudes, and ICAO’s work through this RFI process will help to facilitate harmonized solutions which are safe, secure, sustainable, and most importantly, globally aligned,” said ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu. “Our overriding goal at ICAO is to better define the issues involved, whether technical, operational or legal, and also to ensure safety continues to remain our highest priority.”

DroneDJ’s take

We believe that a global approach that involves the relevant government agencies, as well as drone manufacturers, is the preferred way to safely bring drones into the national and international airspace. We also think it is important to distinguish between the different types of drones that are being used. The risks associated with a Tello toy-drone, an Inspire 2 or an Amazon Prime Air delivery drone are very different and the regulatory framework should recognize that and accommodate for those differences.

A global approach and the sharing of best practices may ultimately speed up the safe integration of drones into the existing manned airspace. This would bring the many benefits that drones offer, such as the ability to save lives, time and to reduce emissions to our societies sooner. A global approach should also prevent the regulatory and logistical nightmare that would occur for internationally traveling drone operators and drone manufacturers if every country were to develop their own solutions and regulations, as is currently happening in the US and France for instance. Some manufacturers, such as DJI with their Aeroscope solution for remote identification of drones, are pro-actively trying to prevent this from happening.

What do you think about integrating drones into the existing airspace for manned aircraft? Let us know in the comments below.

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