Autonomous drones regulation are evolving. In France, professional drones are subject to precise drone regulations, governed by four operational flight scenarios, which require a remote pilot. Fully automated with no pilot, autonomous drones go beyond this framework and open up new applications. Stéphane Morelli, Compliance Officer & Public Affairs at Azur Drones, provides an overview of the main regulatory developments for autonomous drones in France and abroad.
Drone regulation mainly endeavours to prevent 2 types of risk. The first risk is an uncontrolled flight in airspace and therefore the risk of a collision with something else in the same airspace. The second risk is a drone falling to the ground and crashing into property or people.
Based on these 2 risks, a certain number of drone regulations have been established all over the world, and France has been one of the pioneering countries.
It seems now necessary to merge, or at least to harmonise these drone regulations at the international level. Indeed, the civil drone market needs, in order to continue structuring its activities, common rules to govern the manufacture and operations of unmanned aircrafts. In June 2019, the European Union published drone regulations which will enter into force on July 1st 2020 (see more information on the European Aviation Safety Agency website).
This European regulation is a real opportunity for innovative UAV operations, which obviously include autonomous drone operations. Indeed, the European drone regulations provide 3 categories of operations, presenting an increasing risk:
– “Open” category for low-risk operations;
– “Specific” category for intermediate risk operations;
– “Certified” category for high-risk transactions.
The European approach is considered with great interest because it relies on an innovative process. This regulation is in fact based solely on risk measurement, which is carried out, for the Specific category, by the SORA (Specific Operation Risk Assessment) method.
It is by practicing this SORA method that Azur Drones got in January 2019 its authorization to deploy the highly automated system Skeyetech on the French territory, after intensive exchanges with the DGAC (French authorities). This approval was obtained by proving the reliability of the Skeyetech system, and the redundancies Azur Drones has provided to its drones. Skeyetech drones can fly over private areas, Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS), day or night, in urban areas, under simple supervision of a remote operator.
In addition, several international studies, including ongoing work in the JARUS group (Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems), are seeking to define progressive levels of autonomy for UAV operations. Thus, six levels have recently been defined by JARUS (see table below) to characterise the levels of autonomy of these operations:
UAS FLIGHT OPERATIONS
Assistance by automation
Task reduction by automation
Automation under supervision
Automation with emergency intervention
Thanks to this work, in which Azur Drones is actively participating, the publication of standards enabling to systematically authorize autonomous UAV flights can be envisaged in the short/medium term.