Newsletter November 2012: Newsletter FLO – Aviation


Arthur Flieger, Attorney at Law Flieger law Office bvba with the cooperation of Stijn Brusseleers, Attorney at Law Flieger Law Office bvba


I. The Chicago Convention – UAS and its mission

Article 8 of the Chicago Convention states that:
“No aircraft capable of being flown without a pilot shall be flown over the territory of a contracting State without special authorisation by that State and in accordance with the terms of such authorisation. Each contracting State undertakes to insure that the flight of such aircraft without a pilot in regions open to civil aircraft shall be so controlled as to obviate danger to civil aircraft.”

The latest generation unmanned aircraft systems have taken a boost on technologies and development. It occurs from a study held by ESA that a survey was conducted among ESA stakeholders in order to have an overview of those missions that keep more interest for the unmanned community.

The most feasible missions for a short-term demo are:
– Border Surveillance / Coastguard;
– Civil Security and Law Enforcement;
– Emergency / Disaster Monitoring;
– Forestry Monitoring / Fire Spotting;
– Communications & Broadcasting;
– Earth Observation / Scientific Missions;
– Agriculture Monitoring / Research;
– Weather Monitoring / Meteorological Research

It’s not the goal of this newsletter to go in depth in the civil application of the use of unmanned aircraft systems, however it can be pointed out that the most feasible missions for a short term demo would be:
– Maritime Surveillance and Coastguard;
– Border Control;
– Infrastructure Monitoring;
– Disaster Management and Mitigation: Disaster Relief, Fire Fighting.

II. Barriers

However there are still some barriers which need to be superseded in order to implement civil application successfully. There are indeed still many challenges such as technical, regulatory, procedural and transversal issues which needs to be overcome.

As technical challenges can be mentioned:
– Separation
– Collision avoidance
– ATC interface
– Dependable emergency recovery
– Autonomous behaviour / decision making
– Operator interface
– Visual landmark and obstacle avoidance

Regulatory challenges;
– Harmonised military process
– Agreed rules and regulations with authorities

Procedural and training challenges:
– UAS pilot-training
– Security of the ground station

Transversal issues:
– Public acceptance
– Liabilities product organisation

It’s clear that for the short-term there should be
– An internationally harmonised regulatory and standard framework prepared for UAS
– Airspace and ATM system need to cope with the increasing demand of airspace users, being the Unmanned Aviation community.
– Reliability of UAS and the safety of their operations
– The insurance liability costs and responsibility

Many UAS, mainly in the military field, have software for mission planning, execution and post-processing, which is based on digitalised raster maps. At the latest Farnborough International Airshow one could see that said regulation is taking very important steps.

The integration of UAS into SES and SESAR will be discussed in a further newsletter, the more that ICAO has produced an UAS circular to inform states of the emerging ICAO prospective on UAS integration.

However with this note we will try to identify some regulatory parameters to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into non-segregated airspace. One will not deny that unmanned aerial vehicles have made an huge process and that they became an integral element of military operations. The rapid development of military UAV’s has been supported by the favourable conditions for the testing and collection of practical experience in military reserved airspace without formal airworthiness certification. This experience has stimulated interest in civilian UAV operations, but predominantly related to tele-observation. Civilian UAV’s engines are intended to operate in a different environment: the non-segregated civilian airspace together with all other air traffic.

III. Regulatory Background

As mentioned above art. 8 of the Chicago Convention is the universally accepted treaty rule governing pilotless aircraft. Despite being short and general, this provision has substantial content:
– Pilotless, civilian and State aircraft are considered to be aircraft, so that aviation rules apply, but the pilotless element requires additional safeguards.
– As a matter of sovereignty, any overflown State reserves the right to authorize flights of (civilian and State ) pilotless aircraft over its territory.
– The over-flown State has the right to determine the terms of the authorization. It has the authority to unilaterally establish (airworthiness and flight ) rules for the operation of ( national and foreign, civilian and State) pilotless aircraft in its national airspace.
– The operation of pilotless aircraft must not to compromise safety (of other civil aircraft) in all regions open to civil aircraft, not only in national airspace.

State authorization will also include UAV’s, as well all related system elements and their safe operation.

Pilotless Elements

Reading art. 8 of the Chicago Convention, the technical elements that distinguish pilotless aircraft from conventional manned aircraft need to be specified.
– The Interface between Pilot and UAV

Paramount is the link between the pilot on the ground and the UAV. One can refer to the standards 2.3.1 and 2.4 of the Chicago Convention’s Annex 2 (Rules of the Air), which determine the responsibility and authority of the pilot in command:
– Standard 2.3.1: The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall, whether manipulating the controls or not, be responsible for the operation of the aircraft in accordance with the rules of the air, …
– Standard 2.4: The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall have the final authority as to the disposition of the aircraft while he is in command.

Since UAV’s are by definition pilotless, command and control must be exercised by a pilot on the ground, in an operation centre. The interface between the operation centre, the pilot-in-command and the vehicle is vital.

The situational awareness of the pilot in command on the ground needs to be the same as on the flight deck, so that he can seamlessly exercise command and control of the UAV.

– The Interface between Pilot and Air Traffic Control

The pilot-in-command has to maintain radio contact with the air traffic control unit.

– The Interface between Pilot and Air Traffic in the Vicinity of the UAV

This interface is one of the most important ones and is the one between the pilot in command and the other traffic.

It’s generally accepted that the pilot-in-command is responsible for avoiding collisions with other air traffic, regardless whether operating under visual or instrument flight rules. It will lead us too far to review the several domestic legislations but one can refer to US legislation ( 14 CFR Part 91.113 (b).

– Flight Automation

Flight automation will become or is already a big technical and regulatory challenge for the pilotless element. Full automation will be the pinnacle of this development which is strongly spurred by the technical advancement of communication and information technologies and their miniaturisation.

IV. Planning Assumptions

Airspace complexity will be a very important issue. Airspace is divided into segments where different rules apply. In exercise of their sovereignty, States structure their national airspace in different ways.

Many States will keep huge portions open to a broad user community and only reserve smaller portions of it, for example, for military, security or experimental uses. In the planning assumptions one can look to the airspace, including:
– metropolitan areas
– very Low Airspace
– increased Separation for UAV.

This issue refers to the airspace where all traffic is subject to control and where some voices would prefer a separation from UAV’s from other traffic. However it’s very doubtful whether this would be a substantial improvement. Increased separation means buying some additional time for reaction, in the event of malfunction or signal loss of a UAV.

V. Airworthiness and Certification

Airworthiness and certification play an important role for the integration of UAV’s into non-segregated airspace. The purpose of certification is flight safety, to protect other aircraft and public on the ground.

Aviation was a pioneering and creative industry in its early years, but at the cost of casualties. Today aviation is based on a robust safety culture. It takes years and decades to develop new aircraft. Innovations trickle only slowly into market-ready aviation products. The result is a very good safety record.

It is highly attractive to merge the innovative power and competitive pricing of information technologies with aviation. UAS are a product of such a merger. No doubt, we will see UAV’s and manned aircraft flying in the same airspace. To achieve this goal, all regulatory steps must be undertaken to maintain the safety levels the aviation industry has achieved over a century.

For further information and comment, please contact Arthur Flieger at, Website:, telephone: +32 3 238 77 66

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