Address to Queensland Government UAS Forum
ADDRESS TO QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT UAS FORUM
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.
Like other safety regulators, CASA faces a number of challenges responding to a changing aviation environment, a growing international and domestic industry and the need to ensure that safety related considerations are at the forefront of our thinking.
The dynamic nature of the aviation industry will inevitably present new safety challenges that will need to be address by the industry and CASA. One of the key developing challenges identified by CASA is the rapid development of UAS.
And the Minister for Transport, through the Aviation White Paper, has also made it clear that he expects CASA to enhance our oversight of the operation of UAS.
The UAS sector is potentially the most innovative sector of the aviation industry. The development of the potential of unmanned aerial systems is a key future challenge to which CASA must respond.
Over the next five years, CASA expects to see solid growth in the use of UAS in Australia across a range of civil aviation roles. Among other nationally beneficial applications, UAS have potential in the resources exploration industry, in law enforcement aerial surveillance and in support of fire fighting.
Australia has led the world in civil regulation of UAS and was the first country to have an operational regulation. This has been recognised internationally with CASA's Manager for Future Technologies Jim Coyne election as Chair of the ICAO UAS Study Group.
ICAO has established this group to develop the international regulatory framework to support a safe, secure and efficient integration of UAS into non-segregated airspace and aerodromes alongside manned aircraft.
As Chair, I expect Jim will be steering the group towards developing a comprehensive package of standards and recommended practices, procedures and the associated guidance material for civil UAS.
While many parts of the community believe that unmanned technology is coming, the fact is that it is here and already providing important services to the community, such as powerline survey, vegetation assessments, pollution surveys, mammal surveys, the list is almost endless; with fire fighting support and law enforcement coming in the near future, as I mentioned before. We need to project UAS as a benefit to society, and not solely the "killing drone" frequently read about in the media.
My first message is that this requires education of both the public and the conventional aviation industry. This I believe is a task for all – UAS operators, educators, industry associations, research and developers, and the regulator.
The interest in UAS worldwide can be seen by the large number of aircraft types, from the micro size to the large, 737 size aircraft; and large interest generated by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conferences. Last year the one in Denver, Colorado attracted some 6,400 delegates and 380 exhibitors, while in Washington this year some 7500 people and 420 plus exhibitors attended.
There are currently 14 holders of Operator Certificates operating UASs for commercial purposes in Australia. The number of enquiries being made to CASA relating to UAS, strongly suggests interest in this sector will grow rapidly over the coming years.
In the past 18 months, we have taken a number of steps to strengthen our capability to regulate the UAS sector.
We have employed a dedicated UAS specialist to engage industry and take responsibility for policy formulation, standards setting and maintenance; entry control coordination; and regulatory service functions.
We also continue to develop improved guidance materials for industry to assist with its education and knowledge; and to improve efficiency through standardisation and consistency. Material such as standard format for advice on applications, operations manual guidance, an operators certificate manual, area approval submission framework, risk assessment worksheets, reliability reporting, as well as improved Advisory Circulars are either "on the street", in industry being tested, or about to be released.
In addition, again with industry, we continue to develop a national UAS qualification within the Australian Quality Training Framework, new licensing and flying standards. The start point for this was the valuable work conducted by an industry training development team. CASA then, along with industry partners, conducted a trial ab initio training program to evaluate concepts to establish a specialist controller qualification and flying standards.
Work on this continues with the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council and an industry steering committee to develop UAS qualifications within the Aviation Training Package. The expected outcomes will redress the issues currently associated with an imposed conventional aviation approach to remote pilot qualifications.
In responding to these demands, it is important to highlight that CASA is not an economic regulator. We have no authority to allow economic or commercial implications to influence the safety-related decisions we are obliged to make.
It is only after all relevant safety-related factors have been considered, that the economic or commercial consequences of that decision might be taken into account. Where a less onerous, but equally safe, alternative is allowed by the law, CASA will certainly entertain that option. But in every case, commercial and economic considerations will be subordinated to safety-related matters.
And there are great demands on regulators to allow for the speedy development of new systems to take advantage of the commercial opportunities these systems presents.
However, CASA is working to respond to the growth and scope of the industry and ensure that safety standards are in place for the industry to continue its growth.
Regulatory Developments for the future
UAS are covered by CASR Part 101, a regulation that is now nearly 10 years old. Given this, we have established a Review of Regulations and Guidance Material relating to UAS.
So given the understanding and experience of the existing UAS industry participants, and those who are preparing to join, as well as the many advances in UAS technology over the recent years, work on this project will provide more guidance to industry on the regulatory requirements and approval processes for commercial operation of UAS in Australia.
The guidance will consider the long term integration of UAS into normal aviation operations in all classes of airspace. The project will be undertaken in two phases.
Phase 1 will involve the development of a suite of Advisory Circulars covering:
- Training and Licensing
- Air Traffic Management
- Manufacturing and Initial Airworthiness
- Maintenance and Continuing Airworthiness
- Safety Management
Phase 2 of the project will consist of a review and where necessary amendment of CASR Part 101.
We are calling for industry nominations to form a joint CASA/Industry UAS Working Group – indeed, CASA's work on this project, along with others that directly impact industry, are all enhanced though the valuable contributions of people in the aviation industry.
So my second message is that CASA is "on the case". We take this industry sector seriously and are working to ensure that remotely piloted aircraft are flown safely.
Responding to Current Challenges
In an effort to provide this growing community of operators with as much information as possible, and in addition to the material mentioned earlier, CASA has hosted a number of workshops covering training, human factors, risk assessment and maintenance.
By the way of example, the key aims of the human factors workshop were to identify human factors common to the operation of unmanned aircraft systems as well as developing education, knowledge and skills with industry to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to improve safety through consideration of human factors.
The participants also commented on how helpful it was for them to have access to the human factors resources as it enabled them to get a better understanding of the issues facing unmanned aircraft systems in the human factors environment.
CASA will continue to provide workshops and other educational opportunities into the future as future needs and risk are identified.
Regulatory Service Functions
With respect to our regulatory service functions, we again are serious about ensuring that operators, and those who seek to become operators, do so legally. We do conduct enforcement of the regulations and will continue to do so. In this role, we also rely on industry input to report those who are allegedly operating illegally.
Therefore my third message for today is that we do conduct enforcement and illegal operators will be penalised.
In conclusion, thank you to the Queensland Government for inviting CASA to be a part of this UAS Forum.
Again, my messages today are:
- education of both the public and the conventional aviation industry is required;
- CASA is "on the case" and working with industry and on the regulations to ensure safe operations; and
- we do conduct enforcement and illegal operators will be penalised.
I have my UAS related staff available to take one-on-one questions during the networking session.
I wish you every success with this Forum.