UK drives electronic conspicuity plan for drones

UK drives electronic conspicuity plan for drones

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

If you are looking for a new word for the holiday period, then look no further than the delights of the UK’s civil aviation authority (CAA).

The CAA set up a Surveillance Standards Task Force last year with industry to develop surveillance specifications, including a national, voluntary standard for Electronic Conspicuity (EC) which has now reported back.

Conspicuity, or the property of being conspicuous, has of course been vital for air systems for decades. In larger aircraft this is often addressed with transponders to the ADS-B standard.

The task force is looking at the the operational need for an EC standard from future airspace scenarios and Identifying the minimum standards which would satisfy the operational needs to vocer gaps in the current regulations.

This is especially important as smaller drones become more autonomous and regularly fly ‘beyond visual line of sight’. This would require them to fit into airspace management systems. However current transponders are too heavy and power hungry to be effective.

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The aim of the new electronic conspicuity specification is to enable the delivery of the Airspace Modernisation Strategy to reduce the risks of mid-air collision in UK airspace, enhancing safety.  

A study recommended using existing global standards (operating on 1090 MHz for piloted aircraft and 978 MHz for unpiloted aircraft for a voluntary scheme in the short term, and developed a suggested regulatory roadmap required to support implementation of the preferred recommendation.

The CAA and UK Department of Transport will agree a programme of work to deliver a new EC specification in the UK. This will require significant engagement with the airspace user and equipment providers, so there will be much more mention of conspicuity in 2023 and going forwards.

“We strongly encourage voluntary use of EC devices in all airspace to enhance their visibility to other traffic,” said the CAA.

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