A framework for analyzing unmanned aircraft system integration into the national airspace system using a target level of safety approach
Melnyk, Richard V.
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Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) represent a significant potential for growth in the aerospace industry. Their use in military operations has increased exponentially in the last decade alone, requiring a corresponding increase in training airspace in the United States. In addition to military usage, UAS have the potential to fulfill a myriad of roles for both the public and private sectors. However, the use of UAS has been limited in the National Airspace System (NAS) to military and public applications and only under fairly restrictive Certificates of Authorization or Waiver (COA). The only way to truly realize the potential of UAS is to fully integrate them into the NAS. The desire to integrate UAS was recently codified into law with the 2012 FAA Modernization Act, mandating integration by specific, fairly short timelines. There are several challenges currently preventing the full integration of UAS that range from technological to procedural areas. However, the one common theme in all of these challenges is Safety. Across the literature on this topic there is no consensus on how safe UAS need to be to achieve integration, whether UAS can currently meet specified safety targets, and if not, what is the best way to achieve the safety goals. The purpose of this effort was to demonstrate a comprehensive framework for analyzing UAS integration efforts using a Target Level of Safety (TLS) approach. Using reliability tools, aircraft encounter models, and data from a wide variety of sources ranging from manned aircraft safety, explosives, falling debris and earthquake damage, the primary outcome of the effort was a better understanding of the risk to second and third party persons as a result of UAS operations in the NAS. This framework and associated models are validated using reliability and casualty data from manned aircraft operations. The framework is then applied to several relevant and specific cases to demonstrate the impact of policy decisions on UAS reliability and allowed operational areas. The supporting research and analysis can serve as a baseline for future integration analysis and decision-making efforts, and was designed to allow stakeholders and decision makers in this field to assess UAS safety, and set minimum system reliability requirements and mitigation system effectiveness standards.