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Incorporating UAS into Airport InfrastructureâPlanning Guidebook Â 23 4 Airport Opportunities, Issues and Challenges Although a large segment of UAS activity will operate outside the existing airport environment, a portion of the UAS commercial, civil and military markets are expected to regularly use airport facilities and infrastructure. Currently there is no source of state or federal funding for these projects, but regulatory and capacity limitations at large commercial airports may drive UAS activity and encourage investment in nearby regional and GA reliever airports found just outside high population markets. Driving UAS demand to smaller airports with excess capacity and infrastructure allows for more efficient use of airspace and infrastructure while stimulating regional economic growth. Both small and large UAS can provide airports opportunities for revenue enhancement and growth. However, to effectively incorporate UAS into the airport environment, several issues and challenges must be addressed. Opportunities At least four direct airport benefits can be attributed to development and growth of UAS demand. These airport opportunities are highlighted in the following sections and airports are encouraged to plan for these potential uses. 4.1.1 Benefits to Airport Owners and Operators Use of UAS by the airport sponsor and their service providers for on-airport survey, construction, security and law enforcement, and wildlife management has and continues to be allowed by the FAA through FAR Part 107 and FAA operating waivers. With FAA approval, a UAS survey of the parking garage areas at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was performed as part of design and construction. Also, following several hurricanes, staff at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport used UAS to survey the airport property and infrastructure for damage and debris. These examples illustrate that airports can effectively use UAS to improve the quality, efficiency, and economy of their operations. Other potential uses of UAS by airport sponsors could also include supporting âground vehicle traffic management, collision avoidance, wildlife management, environmental monitoring and even small package delivery within the airport perimeterâ (Matthews, Esq., Frisbie, P.E., & Cistone, Ph.D., 2017). 4.1.2 Benefits to Airport Customers and Tenants Another opportunity exists with UAS operators becoming regular users and tenants of airports. Public use airports supporting UAS activity currently include: Southern California Logistics Airport, Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport, Golden Triangle Regional Airport, Syracuse-Hancock International Airport, (NASEM, 2015) as well as Sebring Regional and Cape May County Airports. Although a substantial percentage of current UAS operations are associated with DOD operations, commercial and civil use of UAS within the airport environment is on the rise. As technology improves, various forecasts suggest that existing airport tenants may expand and transition part of their existing aircraft fleet to UAS, for example: ï· FedEx is testing UAS for large cargo transport as well as small UAS and ground automated vehicles for customer distribution directly from the airport rather than shipping to a local distribution facility.
Incorporating UAS into Airport InfrastructureâPlanning Guidebook Â 24 ï· Boeing and Airbus are also evaluating UAS development to support short and long-haul commercial passenger demand. ï· Uber Air is looking to apply UAS for air taxi and corporate passenger operations. ï· The Orlando-Sanford International Airport was contacted about a UAS air taxi service operator who was interested in ferrying passengers between the airport and Walt Disney World Resorts. Although UAS may replace some forms of existing technology and transportation, it creates a variety of new opportunities in transportation, automation and robotics. Thus, given planned industry growth and facility needs, airports are well-suited to support long-term demand. 4.1.3 Benefits of Fixed and Multi-Rotor UAS The majority of small model and non-model civilian UAS utilize single or multi-copter UAS models. However, fixed wing UAS offer several benefits compared to quadcopter UAS. In addition, facilities needed to support long-range fixed wing UAS already exist at airports throughout the world, including runways, taxiways, and aprons. Further, several existing fixed wing UAS also include tilt- rotor engines which allow the aircraft the flexibility to takeoff and land vertically or horizontally. When evaluating the UAS mission, cost, payload, and time in the air, non-model/recreational users should consider the benefits of using fixed wing UAS over multi-rotor UAS. These include: â¢ Multi-rotor UAS are slower than fixed wing UAS, and, therefore, will take longer to implement avoidance procedures with other aircraft or infrastructure; â¢ Fixed Wing UAS can cover a lot more area in less time and with less power than their multi- rotor counterparts. Fixed wing small UAS have greater range and endurance than small multi-rotor UAS and are designed for being operated beyond the visual line of sight of the pilot, like inspecting pipeline and rails and monitoring crops. Beyond the visual line of sight refers to operations that take the UAS farther than the pilotâs or any other participating visual observerâs direct vision of the UAS, with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses (Krause, 2018). â¢ A fixed wing UAS can operate on an existing paved or turf-type runway for takeoff and landing, so additional special or UAS only infrastructure may be unnecessary. For example, a catapult type launch system, which may be used for multi-rotor or fixed wing UAS, is more expensive and time consuming to use. Further, the launch and recovery system must be set up in locations that are free from obstructions and away from structures. Existing airport airfield facilities are already free from potential obstructions (natural or manmade) to air navigation. â¢ Long endurance UAS (all fixed wing) can fly at higher altitudes and are quieter than the rotor copter UASs. Most research and high altitude (above 18,000 Feet MSL) military UAS are fixed wing. â¢ Fixed wing UAS have greater payload capacity to size compared with multi-rotor UAS counterparts. Although a fixed wing UAS may not be useful for door to door cargo distribution, it would be useful for longer range medical or other high value transports. In addition, a fixed wing design would support larger payload activities, such as passenger transport and large cargo transport.
Incorporating UAS into Airport InfrastructureâPlanning Guidebook Â 25 â¢ Fixed wing UAS can operate in higher wind conditions compared to multi-rotor UAS. Higher wind conditions drain the batteries more quickly on a multi-rotor UAS thus requiring extra power to operate. â¢ Repair and maintenance costs associated with fixed wing UAS models are lower than those of multi-rotor UAS models (ATL, 2018). Multi-rotor UAS will continue to be used in support of a variety of business and public use missions; however, as shown, fixed wing UAS provide several advantages of their multi-rotor counterparts. Since airports are already equipped with much of the infrastructure needed to support fixed wing UAS operations, needed infrastructure would likely be related to communications and navigational equipment. Increased use of fixed wing UAS will provide additional revenue enhancing opportunities to the airport and proportionally a better return on investment. 4.1.4 Potential Opportunities to Enhance Airport Revenue Airport revenues as defined in FAA Order 5190.6B, FAA Airport Compliance Manual, relate to any paid or due revenues to the airport sponsor for the use of airport property by the aeronautical and nonaeronautical users, sale of airport property and resources, and airport tax revenues. Anticipated UAS related revenue enhancements opportunities may include construction and development of both aeronautical and nonaeronautical facilities to serve UAS tenants and customer demand. Suggested opportunities include construction of a distribution center within industrial park locations on or adjacent to airport property. Further, expanded development and use of UAS for distribution of various goods and services is anticipated to trigger development of various aeronautical and nonaeronautical support facilities (e.g. UAS parts, maintenance, and avionics), which may also be located on airport property. Issues and Challenges Although many analysts and entrepreneurs envision strong growth in UAS, several regulatory hurdles and issues must be addressed to allow safe integration of UAS into the NAS and airport environment. According to the U.S. Governmental Accounting Office (GAO), the top UAS issues and challenges that must be addressed are safety and privacy (Longley, 2018). Two major safety concerns include UAS versus manned aircraft, and UAS versus humans. To address the various safety, security and privacy concerns, several governmental entities along with academia and industry are working together to develop new and updated regulations for UAS integration. As part of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, several changes were made including aeronautical testing for recreational UAS pilots, unmanned aircraft tracking and registration, privacy reporting and enforcement, and UAS threat management. Additional concerns highlighted by industry, airport operators and sponsors, FAA and other stakeholders include UAS and manned aircraft communication, airport charting, airport security and risk management, funding and compliance concerns, training needs, and tenant privacy concerns, which are discussed in greater detail in Section 8 as well as in ACRP 03-42 Topic A and B: Managing and Engaging Stakeholders on Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the Vicinity of Airports. Â