Project AS 14/23 - Air traffic control standards for conduct of remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) and low level helicopter operations in control zones
There are two issues to be addressed:
- Lack of defined standards for enabling RPAS operations within a control zone (controlled airspace) whilst ensuring there are adequate safety margins from other aircraft operations within that zone.
- Incorporate into permanent legislative standards, current temporary arrangements for allowing low level helicopter operations within a control zone in close proximity to the primary airport.
Air traffic control (ATC) services are conducted on a strict rule basis. In particular, ATC can only authorise an aviation activity within controlled airspace if there will be appropriate safety separation within any other aviation activity occurring within the airspace. For traditional aircraft operations (fixed wing aircraft and helicopters), ATC has a comprehensive suite of separation standards and procedures that can be applied for various scenarios.
However, there are increasing requests from RPAS operators for permission to conduct operations within control zones - sometimes in close proximity to a controlled airport. Normal separation minima either don't apply to RPAS operations or have such large buffer values that RPAS operations cannot occur close to an airport without hampering conventional operations at the airport. Accordingly, it is proposed to review several concepts for RPAS separation minima and airspace operating procedures, ensure safety risks are adequately addressed and if appropriate adopt these minima and procedures as regulatory standards. There are currently no international standards that could be adopted within the Australian context; RPAS operations in controlled airspace are an unresolved global issue.
In relation to low level helicopter operations within a control zone: in January 2014, CASA assessed and approved an Airservices safety case which argued certain helicopter operators could be permitted to operate in close proximity to Sydney airport whilst being responsible for self-separation with arriving and departing Sydney air traffic. The safety case successfully argued that the helicopter pilot should not have to report each conflicting aircraft in sight, nor should ATC be required to provide a traffic statement to the helicopter about each conflicting aircraft - as normally required by Part 172 MOS paragraph 10.10.1.3. Based on the proposed concept of operations, CASA issued a conditional exemption against the requirements of MOS reference.
Airservices conducted a post implementation review of the procedures and reported there are no significant issues arising from the low level helicopter operational arrangements. Accordingly, it is proposed that the standards in Part 172 MOS should be amended to facilitate helicopter operations such as occurring at Sydney - subject to appropriate conditions, but without requiring the grant of an exemption.
Assessment of risk and consequences of no action
- There are identified risks associated with the fact that there are no relevant standards against which RPAS operations within controlled airspace can be regulated or assessed for safety.
- There are increasing requests for RPAS operations within controlled airspace and the risks involved with these operations need to be more formally assessed and addressed through the development of a standard.
- It is timely to develop appropriate standards - even if interim in nature and subject to later improvement.
- Under exemption arrangements, low level helicopter operations are currently taking place in Sydney control zone in a safe and regulated manner.
- A post implementation review of the current arrangements conducted in September 2014 revealed no significant issues and recommended only minor changes to procedures.
- However, operations by exemption should only be a temporary measure and if regularised, should be adopted as formal standards.
- Establish suitable standards for providing air traffic control services to certain Remotely Piloted Aircraft within a control zone.
- Establish suitable standards that allow certain low altitude helicopter operations within a control zone.
This project was approved by Nick Ward, Acting EM Standards Division 15 October 2014.
Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR) Part 172 Manual of Standards - ATS Providers.
Project Leader: Jan Goosen
Project Sponsor/s: Executive Manager, Standards Division
Standards Consultative Committee (SCC)
|Consultation updates in 2014|
|Project AS 14/23 - Air traffic control standards for conduct of remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) and low level helicopter operations in control zones||Project approved.||24 Oct 2014|