Wed, Nov 06, 2019 - Page 2 News List

UAVs present challenges to air traffic controllers

SAFETY:A NASA presentation showed that air traffic controllers may have to deal with supersonic crewed aircraft, subsonic fixed-wing planes and large UAVs

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

A presentation on drones given by NASA is pictured at the 72nd International Air Safety Summit in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Air traffic controllers are facing increasing challenges with the continuous development of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), experts said yesterday, the second day of the three-day International Aviation Safety Summit in Taipei.

A presentation from NASA Airspace Operations and Safety Program director Akbar Sultan showed that the airspace between 18,000 feet and 60,000 feet (5,486m and 18,288m) above ground could in future be jointly shared by supersonic crewed aircraft, subsonic fixed-wing aircraft and large UAVs.

Not only would there be airports monitoring the traffic of large civil aviation aircraft on the ground, but there would also be vertiports or droneports on top of buildings or inside airports to accommodate vertical landing and takeoff of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft, the presentation showed, adding that this presents an urgent need for the integration of different air traffic control systems.

As UAV applications are set to expand — from accelerating urban air mobility to facilitating short-haul and medium-haul transportation services — experts said that UAV manufacturers must standardize safety criteria, such as categorization of UAV certification and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) devices.

CAA Flight Standards Division Director Clark Lin (林俊良) said that the nation’s air traffic controllers should be prepared to meet the challenges brought by increased deployment of drones for commercial purposes.

Lin cited as an example German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter’s successful test flight of a drone-like flying taxi in Singapore last month.

Regulations governing the use of drones are to take effect on March 31, Lin said.

These include a ban on drones operating 400 feet or more above ground, unless operators have filed an application beforehand, Lin said.

UAVs weighing 250g or more have to be registered with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), while those weighing 2kg or more would also need an operating license, he said.

The CAA has designed a mobile phone application that allows operators to see if their UAVs might have flown into prohibited or restricted areas, he said.

Taiwan Transportation Safety Board chief aviation investigator Thomas Wang (王興中), who was in charge of investigating the causes of two TransAsia Airways plane crashes in 2014 and 2015, said there are not many drones operating above 400 feet for now because of government restrictions.

However, as Amazon and other retail business owners have started experimenting with drones to deliver goods, air traffic controllers have to think ahead what they would when they need to regulate traffic involving UAVs and large aircraft at the same time, Wang said.

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