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Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer (2015)

Chapter: Chapter 3 - Airport Lessons Learned

« Previous: Chapter 2 - Introduction to UAS
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Airport Lessons Learned." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21907.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Airport Lessons Learned." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21907.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Airport Lessons Learned." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21907.
×
Page 13
Page 14
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Airport Lessons Learned." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21907.
×
Page 14
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Airport Lessons Learned." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21907.
×
Page 15
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Airport Lessons Learned." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21907.
×
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11 Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 3 Chapter 7 Chapter 9 Chapter 2 Chapter 6 Chapter 4 Chapter 8 A ppendices When an airport is starting down the path toward bringing UAS business and operations to their facility, the first question management is likely to ask is, “What have airports working with unmanned aircraft learned that can help us succeed?” This chapter of the primer presents lessons from both civilian airports and military airfields, putting key points up front. Civil airports and military airfields with UAS operating experience have found that in many ways unmanned aircraft can be treated just like manned aircraft. From the facilities to support the aircraft, to the training required for emergency responders, to markings on the taxiways, air- ports may need only minor modifications to bring UAS into the current environment. There are important differences at present that are manageable and often dependent upon the aircraft type. Airport managers will likely benefit from making themselves knowledgeable on the experiences of other airports and conducting in-depth planning to better ensure successful and safe integration. 3.1 Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) One of the early airports to integrate UAS into their operations was the VCV, which began operat- ing UAS in 2006. Many of the UAS lessons learned at VCV are presented in a paper entitled, “Con- trolling UAS Flight Operations in a Mixed-Mode Environment Today” (Smith and Taylor 2013). The primary UAS operator at VCV is the California Air National Guard. The Air Guard flies the MQ-1 Predator and will soon begin operations with the MQ-9 Reaper. The MQ-9 is similar in length and weight to a Beechcraft King Air, with a wingspan about 30% greater than the King Air. Boeing Corporation previously operated prototypes from VCV, but has since moved those operations to another site. VCV has COA in place to fly to and from military operating areas and restricted airspace in southern California. • Airport facilities: VCV had facilities in place that could handle the needs of the Air National Guard. When the Air Guard needed different facilities for unique aircraft or mission needs, the Air National Guard would construct the new facilities. The regulations and requirements for building military facilities are very similar to FAA construction requirements. • UAS ground operations: Taxiing of unmanned aircraft at VCV is very similar to other aircraft. The remote pilots talk directly with the tower controllers and are able to follow all instructions. The biggest difference with UAS is the slower speed of taxiing. VCV manages the difference procedurally and with real-time direction to pilots. • UAS takeoffs and landings: The biggest concerns during UAS takeoffs and landings are wake turbulence, winds, and visibility. VCV is home to a large aircraft maintenance facility, thus heavy aircraft fly in and out of the airport. The pilots and controllers are required to be extra vigilant and conservative during UAS takeoffs and landings after heavy aircraft operations given the size, weight, and extended wingspan of the UAS. Airport Lessons Learned C H A P T E R 3

12 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 The operating environment in the desert of southern California often produces strong winds and significant airport crosswind conditions. The winds can create another common environmental hazard: low visibility due to blowing dust and sand. These conditions can limit UAS operations to certain runways. VCV is in close proximity to a nontowered general aviation airport and therefore often has additional light aircraft traffic in the area, to include flight students, which can transit through the Class D airspace. Procedures, including COA restrictions, communication prac- tices, and segregation of aircraft, minimize the chances of conflicts. • Operating with high performance aircraft: In the early stages of UAS work at VCV, the unmanned aircraft occupied that same airspace as manned aircraft to include the landing pattern. The mix of aircraft often included FA-18, F-16, F-22, commercial passenger aircraft, and helicopters. This mixing of traffic was managed by the controllers in the tower. Separa- tion between the aircraft and clear, concise communications with the pilots allowed for safe and efficient operations. As the UAS operations increased at VCV, the FAA partnered with the Air National Guard and the ATC to establish COAs allowing the larger UAS to transit to nearby military operating areas and for the flying of small, hand-held UAS used in training by National Guard units to operate in simulated urban areas on airport property. The COAs segregated UAS operations from manned aircraft and limited UAS operations to one aircraft at a time. When a UAS is in the landing pattern at VCV and a manned aircraft is approaching the airport for landing or an aircraft is taxiing to the runway for takeoff, the UAS is directed to depart the pattern to a preplanned holding point until the manned aircraft is clear of the Class D airspace. • Night operations: VCV does conduct night UAS operations. To ensure safety of flight, the airspace is sanitized through scheduling and ATC so that only the UAS are flying. • COA development: The VCV COAs were developed and submitted by the UAS operators. At VCV, the airport did not play an involved role in the COA drafting and approval process. • NOTAMs: NOTAMs are used at VCV to notify other organizations of upcoming UAS opera- tions. Coordination and NOTAM drafting is handled by the UAS operator at VCV, in this case the Air National Guard. • Training of airport personnel: No additional training for airport personnel was required at VCV. Simple familiarization on the characteristics of the UAS aircraft and the airframe mate- rials was provided to aircraft rescue and firefighting personnel. Outside of this familiarization and on-the-job training and experience, no new training courses were instituted. • Lost communications with the UAS: Since 2006, VCV has experienced only two lost link situations with UAS. In each of these instances, the aircraft proceeded automatically to the preprogrammed holding point and commenced the preprogrammed, automatic recovery procedure at the planned and predicted time. The transponders on the UAS transmitted a lost link code which was seen by tower controllers, thus triggering preplanned procedures for the recovery of the UAS. 3.2 Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport (GRK) Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport (GRK) is in Killeen, TX. The U.S. Army has units flying the UAS from the airport. MQ-5B Hunter and the MQ-1C Grey Eagle are the two primary UAS flown at GRK. UAS operations are normally conducted four days a week, with an increased level of operations anticipated in the near future. Of note, GRK is a military airfield with a civilian passenger terminal as an airfield tenant. GRK is served by three major airlines or their contract regional carriers, and supports 26 scheduled commercial operations each day.

Airport Lessons Learned 13 Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 3 Chapter 7 Chapter 9 Chapter 2 Chapter 6 Chapter 4 Chapter 8 A ppendices Here are some key lessons learned from GRK: • Airline-UAS schedule deconfliction: GRK UAS units use the NOTAM system to keep other flying organizations, including the airlines, informed of upcoming UAS operations. No spe- cial coordination is done between the airlines, the UAS operators, and ATC. The UAS opera- tors are familiar with the schedule of the airlines, they understand the necessity of not delaying airline departures or arrivals, and schedule their operations accordingly. The NOTAMs also inform the general aviation pilots in the area of UAS operations so they are aware and can include UAS considerations into their flight planning. • Lost link loiter point planning: According to personnel at GRK, proper planning of UAS lost link loiter points and emergency holding points involving the airport, the UAS operators, ATC, and the local community is a very important aspect of successful UAS integration. A spot must be selected that is not above a populated area, does not interfere with the airport’s traffic pat- terns, and will not result is land-use issues should an aircraft go down while in holding. • Coordination meetings: GRK hosts regular meetings with all airfield stakeholders to discuss issues relating to UAS operations. Some key issues that have been resolved in these meetings include the solving of terminology differences, the training requirements for new airport and UAS personnel, and the development of new procedures following conflicts created by the UAS operators performing brake checks while in the movement areas. • Standard operating procedures and airfield doctrine: When UAS operations began at GRK, there was little guidance upon which to base the development of airfield procedures. Airfield operations personnel, the UAS operators, and ATC developed local procedures as they gained experience. Airports looking to begin UAS operations will be well served by leading the effort to research and develop standard procedures and airport policy that will likely provide the means for a smooth UAS introduction. • Airfield education for UAS maintenance personnel: Many of the people working on UAS at GRK do not come with aviation backgrounds. Many were not be familiar with airfield proce- dures and safety practices. This issue resulted in an incident at GRK. Following night main- tenance work by Army UAS personnel repairing system equipment close to a runway, the maintenance personnel called the ATC and let them know that they were clear of the runway. In reality, support gear had been left next to the active runway creating an obstruction. As a result of this incident, GRK instituted an indoctrination training program for UAS operators, akin to airfield driving training, to enhance safety on the airfield. 3.3 Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR) The Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR) serves the cities of Columbus, Starkville, and West Point, and the counties of Lowndes and Oktibbeha in Mississippi. GTR offers a variety of general aviation services to include flight training and charter service; is adjacent to the Lowndes County Industrial Park and the GTR Global Aerospace Park which is home to several inter- national and domestic industries; and offers daily scheduled air carrier service. Recently, GTR made preparations to begin UAS operations with the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron aircraft. The Heron was to be flown by airport tenant Stark Aerospace; however, flight operations never took place as a result of company business decisions made by IAI. The lessons learned by GTR during their preparations for flight operations could be of value to other airports looking toward UAS operations with a civilian industry partner. • Division of airspace: GTR worked with Stark Aerospace to develop and receive approval for flying the Heron to and from designated test airspace. The biggest question for all stakeholders was whether or not approval would be granted to fly the aircraft in the Class D airspace. The initial perspective of the FAA was the Class D airspace would need to be cleared completely

14 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 of other aircraft. GTR, Stark, and the FAA worked on a plan to divide the Class D airspace with the UAS flying only in the western half (GTR has a single north-south runway—18/36). The only time complete segregation of aircraft was required was when the UAS aircraft was on the runway. Otherwise, aircraft could come and go from the airport and separation was to be managed by ATC. • Line-of-sight ground communications: Communications antenna placement on the airport is an important factor in safely taxiing some unmanned systems. During the ground testing of the Heron UAS at GTR, it was discovered that the site chosen for the communications antenna did not allow for a clear line of site to all movement and non-movement areas of the airport where the UAS operated. The solution was to install the antenna on the roof of a hangar, with the ground control station trailer placed beside the same hangar. This configuration change eliminated lost link situations on the ground. • Specialized power and ground procedures: As described in Chapter 2 of the primer, many unmanned systems have unique requirements that may require specialized procedures for the airport. The Heron has an advanced navigation system. It incorporates an emergency landing system that can fly to a laser designated spot. An issue for GTR was devising a way to get the required power source to the runway to make the laser designator operational during emer- gency landing situations. The solution used at GTR was to have temporary power cables at the ready that could be run out to predetermined laser setup spots on the airfield. Another unique aspect of the Heron for the airport was its size. Like other larger UAS, the Heron has a fuselage similar in size to a light general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna 172, but has a wingspan that is closer to that of some regional jets. To reduce the risk of ground collisions when moving the Heron, GTR instituted a procedure where the aircraft were towed to a spot just short of the movement area, at which time the UAS pilot took over taxiing the aircraft. • Active participation in the COA development process: In contrast to the more hands-off approach taken by the Southern California Logistics Airport, GTR was very involved in the COA process. One of the biggest issues in bringing in UAS activity for the airport was to ensure that other airport operations were not disrupted. As stated earlier, the initial drafts of the COA would have required the airport to essentially shut down all other activity when the UAS were to operate. GTR was engaged and proactive in the process, and the COA and associated airport procedures that were drafted provided a manageable operating solution for the airport. With two UAS manufacturers located at the airport, the management of the GTR continues to work to attract new UAS business. This is done through attendance at trade shows and airshows, letting businesses know about their facilities, capabilities, and experiences. Having gone through the process of establishing an airport environment for UAS, GTR now has a template for future COAs and understands everything can be done within the rules as long as the airport is involved. 3.4 Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR), located in north-central New York, is a joint- use airport sharing runways with Hancock Air National Guard Base. The airport serves multiple airlines with approximately 20 to 25 departures and arrivals each day. The average number of enplanements per year averages around 1 million passengers. Hancock Air National Guard Base is home to the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard, which includes a formal UAS training unit. Units in the Wing fly the MQ-9 Reaper UAS. Military flight operations at SYR have dwindled over the years, with a small number of C-17 flights making up most of the limited activity. SYR is partnered with the Griffiss International Airport UAS Test Site. SYR is working toward becoming the first civilian airport to operate regular UAS operations. The UAS units at Hancock

Airport Lessons Learned 15 Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 3 Chapter 7 Chapter 9 Chapter 2 Chapter 6 Chapter 4 Chapter 8 A ppendices are working with SYR, the local ATC, and FAA controllers at Boston Center to test procedures and familiarize personnel on the unique aspects of UAS operations. The training areas for the SYR based UAS are near Fort Drum, NY, which is more than 80 miles from Syracuse. At present, the UAS must be transported using trucks to Fort Drum, making the logistics of training very challenging. With the approval of UAS flights from SYR, the cost and time to train the operators will likely be reduced. The first flights from SYR are planned to take place in August 2015. Here are some of the lessons learned as SYR prepares for UAS operations. • Using all available resources to ensure traffic separation and safety: In order to ensure all traffic is able to move about the airport safely and efficiently, the airport and UAS stakeholders are planning to use multiple resources to include the tower controllers, ground based visual observers to track the aircraft on the ground and in the landing pattern, and chase aircraft to follow the UAS to the operating areas. Additionally, the Air National Guard units are planning to bring a 3-D ground based radar to the field, as well as a ground based sense and avoid sys- tem to enhance situational awareness. Another factor that adds to the safety margin is the UAS pilots are qualified Air Force pilots with extensive knowledge of flight rules and procedures. • Familiarizing ATC: The airport and the Air National Guard units have worked with control- lers to familiarize them with the operations capabilities of the aircraft and the flight proce- dures. SYR has learned that as people become familiar with the operations, they become more flexible in their approach to expanding the envelope of operations. SYR is implementing a multi-phased approach to beginning UAS flights. The steps include taxi tests to validate the site models for locating communications towers and meetings with Center controllers to iron out airspace and transit route issues. Personnel at SYR have also learned that a system like the MQ-9 can be treated as another aircraft once the stakeholders are familiar with the aircraft and its system requirements. • Confidence in lost link procedures and holding locations: SYR, like Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport, has learned that ensuring the lost link procedures, holding points, and emergency flight termination points are thoughtfully planned out. SYR has several local com- munities very close to the airport. The airport and the UAS operators are looking carefully at flight routes and holding areas to ensure they maintain the confidence of the surrounding communities. 3.5 Additional Lessons Learned from U.S. Military Airfields The U.S. military has operated UAS, or RPA as the Air Force now refers to their systems, for nearly two decades. Air Force and select Air National Guard units have much experience with aircraft that operate from runways. Their aircraft range from the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper (similar in length to a Cessna 172 but with a wingspan close to that of a regional jet), to the RQ-4 Global Hawk (a UAS with a wingspan greater than a Boeing 757). The Army also operates aircraft that utilize runways with varied modes of operation. The Army’s MQ-1C Grey Eagle is similar in size to the Predator, burns jet fuel in a diesel engine, and, perhaps most importantly from an airport perspective, it takes off and lands in a fully automatic mode. The following lessons learned come from various Army airfields flying the Grey Eagle and from Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, NM, where the Air Force is flying a variety of unmanned aircraft. • Takeoff checks on the runway: As described earlier, all UAS have unique characteristics to include the takeoff and landing modes and procedures. In preparation for its automatic take- off mode, the Grey Eagle needs to sit on the runway for up to 2 minutes prior to departure as navigation and communications systems are brought online. This preparation requires a

16 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 significant amount of equipment near the end of the runway. This combination effectively closes the runway to civil use until such time that the equipment can be removed. This aspect of certain UAS will be discussed again in Chapter 4, as well as in Appendix B. • Experience of UAS operators and pilots: Those who fly or operate military UAS come to their jobs with varying degrees of experience and training. The U.S. Army flies a large number of UAS that have automatic takeoff and landing modes whereby the operator takes over after takeoff and directs the UAS via digital commands. Early in the introduction of such systems, the proficient Army operators were often unfamiliar with airport operations, airport facilities, and in some cases were not familiar with airport markings or lighting. The U.S. Army now includes a ground school with all UAS operator training courses to address this issue. Varying degrees of knowledge and experience will likely be an important issue as the UAS industry grows and may impact airport operations on or near the airfield. • Tracking UAS: Tracking the location of UAS in relation to the airfield and to other air traffic is important and can be a challenge. UAS typically fly in good weather using visual flight rules, and around controlled airfields they are normally handled using positive control and under instrument flight rules. At Cannon Air Force Base, the control tower utilizes a Radar Slave that receives signals from the nearest radar antenna. This allows the airfield to maintain situational awareness of UAS positioning given the difficulties facing the UAS operator in providing accurate position reports when outside the radar coverage of the airfield. • Understanding UAS operational characteristics: It is important for airport operations per- sonnel and ATC to familiarize themselves with the individual characteristics of the systems and the ground procedures for the aircraft operating on the airfield. In the early stages of UAS operations at Cannon, the ATC was caught off guard by the UAS pilots being ready to receive their flight clearances as soon as the aircraft started its engines. • Frequency of UAS lost link: The UAS operators at Cannon fly approximately 300 missions annually. During about 10% of the flights, the aircraft loses data-link connection with the pilot. More often than not, communications with the aircraft are regained within a few sec- onds and the aircraft continues its flight. The frequency of lost link illustrates the importance of lost link loiter point planning.

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Report 144: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer provides airports of all sizes with information about unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and their potential use and impact on airports. The report includes a glossary of key terms, a background on the current state of UAS operations, UAS costs and benefits to airports, regulatory and community considerations, UAS infrastructure and operational considerations, UAS safety and security issues, and more.

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