U.S. Leads ICAO's New Remotely Piloted Aircraft Panel

 - December 18, 2014, 3:34 PM

The Federal Aviation Administration, whichhas come under fire in the U.S. for its slow-moving effort to regulate drones, now leads an international committee whose task is to develop recommended drone standards for the world community.

The Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Panel of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held its first meeting in late November in Montreal. Representatives of ICAO member states and international organizations elected Randy Willis, air traffic manager with the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, to serve as chairman, and Mike Gadd, manager of continued airworthiness with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, as vice chairman. Leslie Cary, ICAO’s RPAS program manager and formerly an FAA air traffic controller and executive, is secretary.

At the first meeting, the panel established five working groups focused on requirements for unmanned aircraft airworthiness, command and control, detect-and-avoid systems, pilot licensing, operations and air traffic management system integration.

In the U.S., the FAA planned to release a proposed regulation governing the use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in 2011. Its parent agency, the Department of Transportation, now lists December 22 as the expected date of publication of the “small UAS” notice of proposed rulemaking, although even that date is in doubt. Meanwhile, an industry and government group assembled by standards organization RTCA—Special Committee 228—is working on standards that will facilitate flights of larger machines. Its goal is to produce standards for detect-and-avoid and command and control systems by July 2016.

The RPAS Panel replaces a lower-lower level study group ICAO formed in 2007, and represents the organization’s increased emphasis on RPAS. ICAO, an entity of the United Nations with 191 member states, will also hold an RPAS Symposium from March 23 to 25 at its Montreal headquarters.

The RPAS Panel’s task is to undertake specific studies and to then “develop provisions to facilitate the safe, secure and efficient integration of RPA into non-segregated airspace and aerodromes, while ensuring existing or improved levels of safety for manned aviation,” according to ICAO.