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49 Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 3 Chapter 7 Chapter 9 Chapter 2 Chapter 6 Chapter 4 Chapter 8 A ppendices If your airport is considering integrating unmanned aircraft into the airportâs operations, what steps should the airport take to safely, securely, and efficiently integrate those operations? What preparations are necessary to get the process started and attract operators? With the com- mercial UAS industry still in the very early stages of development, this may be the best time for airports to begin planning and enter the UAS world prepared and ready to fly. Three key areas addressed in the primer can help airport operators frame their plans. 1. The operation of larger, runway dependent UAS at civil airports is manageable. The airports and ATC with UAS experience have generally found that the operational differ- ences introduced by larger UAS that require runways can be compatible with manned aircraft operations. The operational differences are aircraft type dependent. Given proper planning and well thought out procedures, UAS similar in size (wingspan and length) to manned, single engine light aircraft or larger can operate safely and efficiently in the airport environment. It will be important for airport operators to understand the characteristics of the UAS proposed for use at their facilities, and include all stakeholders, including members of the local com- munity, in the planning stages. 2. The communications infrastructure at the airport must support the needs of the UAS operator. Many of the larger UAS that fly from airports are likely to have the pilot located at the airport. As these UAS move about the airport and fly in the landing pattern, continuous communications between the pilot or operator and the aircraft are necessary to safely fly the UAS. Additionally, many of the missions for the UAS that require the use of airport facilities are focused on gathering data and imagery. Not only will the aircraft require reliable commu- nication with the pilot on the ground, the airport may also be called upon to be the receiver of large amounts of data transmitted from the aircraft. Having communications infrastructure in place or having the capacity to expand to the needs of the UAS operator will be important to successful UAS integration. 3. Access to airspace UAS can use may attract UAS business. At present, UAS operators need to have an approved COA in place before operations can begin. A challenge for airports is that the current COA process is aircraft dependent: a COA cannot be applied for or approved unless there is already a plan to operate from a certain location, to a certain location or area, using a specific aircraft and routing. Airports may be challenged in attracting UAS business without an approved COA in place. Airport managers can work with potential UAS opera- tors to develop a COA and submit the plan for approval. This may seem like a dilemma for the airport. As the industry grows and matures, more UAS that require runways will grow and changes to how airspace authorization is granted will evolve. A proactive, cooperative approach by the airport together with UAS operators may lead to success. Now that the FAA test sites are selected and testing and operations are beginning, informa- tion about the impact UAS have on airports will become more prevalent and available. Airport Moving Forward and Conclusions C H A P T E R 9
50 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer Ch ap te r 1 Ch ap te r 5 Ch ap te r 3 Ch ap te r 7 Ch ap te r 9 Ch ap te r 2 Ch ap te r 6 Ch ap te r 4 Ch ap te r 8 A pp en di ce s operators are encouraged to monitor industry progress by visiting the FAA website and its UAS pages and to use their local and state aviation associations for additional information about UAS. Other information resources are provided in Appendix A aimed at keeping the airport community up-to-date. Preparing for UAS Checklist Airports looking to research and attract UAS activities may benefit from following the steps that other airports have taken. One such airport is the Chennault International Airport (CWF) in Lake Charles, LA. The steps the airport took to try to obtain UAS operations, and recommendations they have based on their efforts are listed below. The airport is still actively working to bring UAS businesses to their facilities. 1. Engage with a UAS national test site. The six national test sites provide airspace, approved COAs, and the resources of UAS partners to those looking to conduct UAS testing. Airports can contact the nearest test site to research options. Points of contact for the test sites are contained in Appendix A. 2. Engage with area universities. A number of universities around the country are doing research with UAS. Many are associated with a national UAS test site while others are conducting inde- pendent research. A partial list of universities with UAS programs is provided in Appendix A. 3. Contact state government. Informing the state economic development officials and Depart- ment of Transportation (Aviation Division) of the interest of the airport to integrate UAS operations may open up opportunities and resources. 4. UAS conferences. There are a number of conferences conducted annually where airport management can learn about the systems being developed and make contacts with UAS companies. Airport management can invite state officials and airport board members to join them in attending such conferences and present a united effort aimed at attracting UAS business. 5. Investigate complementary UAS businesses. The business models for the airport and sup- porting community may be set up in advance to support certain aspects of the UAS industry, such as airframe manufacturing, or avionics development. 6. Determine UAS facility/infrastructure requirements. Knowledge gained from conferences and industry research will likely steer the airport toward particular UAS related companies. Engaging with the companies will help determine their needs and anticipate any changes the airport may need to make. 7. Contact the FAA. Discussions with the FAA UAS Integration Office (AFS-80) regarding the steps taken by the airport to set the stage for UAS operations, and on the additional steps necessary to permit UAS operations from the airport will likely allow the airport to identify any remaining hurdles. The UAS Integration Office can provide answers on the current COA and airspace approval processes that may be the most challenging in the near term. Establishing a COA in Advance of UAS Tenants A goal of airports like CWF is to draw UAS businesses to their facilities during the early stages of UAS industry growth and establish the airport as an attractive place to operate. The CWF airport manager and members of the airport staff have regularly attended UAS trade shows to meet potential tenants and discuss the advantages their airport has over others. In order for the companies to start business or relocate to Lake Charles, LA, a key factor is the availability of airspace in which to operate. The current COA application process is challenging for airports as it is designed for UAS operators applying to fly specific aircraft. Without an approved COA and without a commitment from a UAS operator to fly their aircraft from a new airport, the COA application process will be a hurdle for airports. The airport community may find it valuable to work with the FAA to address this challenge so that as more UAS that require airport runways and services are developed, airports will have a pathway to attract business.
Moving Forward and Conclusions 51 Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 3 Chapter 7 Chapter 9 Chapter 2 Chapter 6 Chapter 4 Chapter 8 A ppendices This primer is not intended to be all inclusive and is written at a specific point of time in the growth of the UAS industry. Some of the information will be dated as soon as the primer is published, given the speed of change in the industry. The primer is intended to educate and provide information to airport operators that will spur a thoughtful approach to UAS integra- tion and UAS operations. At the end of the day, communities look to their airport manage- ment as the aviation experts. Airport management will be asked for their opinions on UAS and asked specific questions about what the community should expect in regard to UAS operations. Airports that are informed and proactive will enable UAS industry development, garner com- munity support, and ensure unmanned aircraft are successfully brought into the airportsâ way of doing business.