National Academies Press: OpenBook

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

Chapter: Chapter 6 - UAS Infrastructure Considerations

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 6 - UAS Infrastructure Considerations." 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 6 - UAS Infrastructure Considerations." 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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Page 35
Page 36
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 6 - UAS Infrastructure Considerations." 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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Page 36

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34 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 UAS infrastructure needs are driven by the type of UAS, its purpose, and the support ser- vices required. Some UAS may require little support from the airport other than a piece of ground from which to fly, while other systems need specialized facilities and procedures. Some airports may have all the UAS infrastructure needs in place while other airports might require modification to support new UAS activities. There are many aspects of UAS operations that are similar or identical to manned aircraft. Airport operators are encouraged to understand the infrastructure needs of UAS operators, putting themselves in a better position to attract UAS business to the airport. See Sections 4.2 and 4.3 for potential revenue streams and infrastructure needs and costs. 6.1 UAS Facility Requirements The facility requirements for the wide variety of unmanned systems vary by size and system complexity. Small UAS may not have any airport facility requirements. Larger UAS, as dis- cussed in previous sections, will require more facilities similar to manned aircraft operations. Hangar space, ramp space, runways, taxiways, along with ground control stations, data stor- age, and communication capabilities may all be necessary. Much like any new airport tenant, the airport operator should plan for UAS facility needs by researching the requirements, and determining how existing facilities can accommodate the needs or identify and plan for new facilities. Airport—UAS Operator Discussion Checklist Airport operators may benefit from using a checklist for discussions with UAS operators in order to understand their needs. Such a checklist might include the following: • Communication requirements to include radio frequencies • Data collection and storage • Hangar space or aircraft storage space • Ramp space and aircraft preparation areas • Runway use and length requirements (to include time required on the runway prior to takeoff) • Launch areas (if different from a runway) • Recovery areas (if different from a runway) • Ground control station space (office space or mobile office space) • Ground support equipment area (equipment space necessary within close proximity to the UAS launch site or runway end) • Fuel type and storage requirements • Maintenance and parts storage areas • Classroom and briefing space UAS Infrastructure Considerations C H A P T E R 6

UAS Infrastructure Considerations 35 Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 3 Chapter 7 Chapter 9 Chapter 2 Chapter 6 Chapter 4 Chapter 8 A ppendices The UAS mission or purpose will drive the equipment the UAS must lift (cameras, recorders, weapons, communication systems, fuel, and engine or motor capacity), which in turn will drive the size of the UAS. Some of these sub-systems may require specialized handling as well. In order to understand the facility requirements, a complete picture of the UAS is needed. 6.2 Launch and Recovery Systems and Requirements Launch and recovery systems are also tied to the size and function of the UAS. Larger UAS such as the Predator and Global Hawk are runway dependent for their takeoffs and landings. Small UAS are or often hand-launched or utilize a small catapult to get them airborne. Recovery of small UAS can be accomplished by a vertical landing, a skid landing onto relatively flat ground, or the use of a recovery net. Regardless of the mode, all UAS may find that an airport is the right place from which to operate. Airport operators should expect UAS which require the use of a runway to be able to oper- ate on most general aviation airport runways. The airport’s Airport Reference Code (ARC) can be used to determine if larger UAS are compatible with the physical airfield itself. The ARC is based on the largest aircraft operating (500 annual operations) at a particular airport and sets the standards for pavement and safety area geometry. As noted in Chapter 4 of the primer, an interesting aspect of some UAS which takeoff auto- matically is the amount of time required on the runway prior to takeoff. An example is the U.S. Army Grey Eagle. The Grey Eagle is considered a tactical UAS which uses a runway for takeoff and lands in the same location from which it departed. It can land via a skid landing or utilize the run- way surface. In order for the Grey Eagle to be able to takeoff automatically, it requires up to two minutes sitting “lined up” on the runway in order to synchronize the global positioning system (GPS) coordinates. This type of operational requirement means the runway is effectively closed for those two minutes. This may not be a problem for some general aviation airports; however, for airports with scheduled air carrier service it will affect airport capacity and poses a hazardous condition as the aircraft sits on the runway. 6.3 UAS Runways The runway requirements for UAS will ultimately depend on the type and operating capa- bility of UAS at a particular airport. UAS runway use is something to be assessed in planning. While dedicating specific runways for UAS only use may be impractical for most airports, given requirements for systems like the Grey Eagle, there are advantages that should be considered. The limiting factors for UAS operations when conducted together with manned aircraft operations relate to ATC and airspace classification. The COA and the Airworthiness Certification processes deal primarily with airspace considerations and will always error on the side of safety. To date, UAS operations are segregated or separated from manned aircraft operations whenever possible. With few exceptions, UAS flights are not allowed to traverse the Class D airspace while manned aircraft are operating in the aircraft traffic control pattern and vice versa. Further, civil UAS operations are not allowed at night. Because of these restrictions, in most cases dedicated UAS runways would not be beneficial; having dedicated UAS runways would not change the airspace and the way in which it is controlled. Dedicated runways are also not typically available at the types of airports that have UAS opera- tions. The most common UAS operations on civil airports are occurring at joint-use airports where military operations are supported alongside civil aircraft operations. At these airports the airfield becomes joint-use to take advantage of the economies of scale making operations more

36 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 affordable for both parties. In many cases the civil airport operator and the military airport operator exchange services for use of the facilities. Neither side has the luxury of a dedicated runway being available. This is not to say, that one runway could not be identified as the pri- mary UAS runway when UAS operations are conducted and made available for manned aircraft operations when no UAS are flying. Wind Considerations Prevailing wind considerations and other airport operating factors should also be considered when determining the runways used for UAS operations. Wind limitations for the aircraft are considered by the FAA during the COA application process and need to be planned prior to the application being submitted. Takeoff and Landing Options Airport operators should discuss all takeoff and landing options with the UAS operators to maximize the airport’s operational capabilities. Many unmanned systems will present opportunities to take off and land from taxiways, runways or portions of runways closed to manned aircraft, or even level grassy areas on the airport. These options should be assessed for their hazards and associated risks to ensure safety of airport operations. The near term growth of runway dependent UAS will likely occur at smaller airports with limited commercial air carrier service. Advantages of UAS operations at small airports include less restrictive airspace (most likely), a less congested surface environment, perhaps easier access to special use airspace, and even ease of access provided by less restrictive security requirements. Many general aviation airports will not have additional airfield capacity issues and may be able to dedicate added resources to UAS operations. The most likely airport situation is that UAS will co-exist with manned aircraft on the airport, on the runways and taxiways, and in the airspace to the extent the FAA determines an acceptable level of safety is provided.

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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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