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Suggested Citation:"2 UAS Uses at Airports." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25607.
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Suggested Citation:"2 UAS Uses at Airports." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25607.
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Suggested Citation:"2 UAS Uses at Airports." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25607.
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Suggested Citation:"2 UAS Uses at Airports." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25607.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 UAS Uses at Airports." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25607.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 UAS Uses at Airports." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25607.
×
Page 11

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Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators   5 2 UAS Uses at Airports 2.1 Airport Uses Rapidly-improving UAS platforms and sensors have resulted in the ever-increasing amount of UAS uses at airports. UAS and sensor technologies can help airports meet current FAA-mandated inspections, more thoroughly secure or monitor their property, inspect otherwise hard to reach areas, manage wildlife in the vicinity, and help respond to emergencies. This section provides an overview of several of the immediate applicable UAS uses at airports. In addition, the team has compiled a matrix of possible UAS uses from our data collection, outreach, and literature review efforts. This is provided in Appendix 6.1 and will help airport operators understand some of the more nuanced UAS uses at airports. While this section provides guidance that is common to most airports, airport operators must plan for the parameters that are unique to their airport when understanding how a UAS use may fit into their operations. This section is not meant to highlight or answer all these potential considerations. Rather, it is meant to offer a quick reference for airport operators to select the UAS uses that could best serve their needs and airport. Table 1 provides a summary of the most common types of UAS uses at airports. Table 1: UAS use, purpose, outcomes/improvements, implementation time UAS Use Purpose Outcomes/Improvements Timeline Pavement Inspection Inspecting of runways, taxiways, aprons, and ramps to meet any FAA-mandated condition levels or to conduct any other condition assessment. Data collected that can be referenced and analyzed to understand pavement condition and support infrastructure decision making. Short Facility Inspection Inspecting of hangars, terminal buildings, tower, NAVAIDs, or any other on-site infrastructure that isn’t pavement. Gather an understanding of facility assets to assess and prioritize and needs. Dependent on the facility inspected, data collected can yield an understanding of thermal properties of buildings, deterioration or condition of buildings and tower, and condition of NAVAIDs and airport lighting, such as PAPI or runway lights. Short Perimeter Monitoring Use of UAS to monitor and scan the perimeter of the airport property. Constant surveillance and sweeps or hotspot monitoring can be accomplished depending on airport need. Improved surveillance of airport property through thermal or visual live-feed or recorded video. This can improve upon fixed HD cameras by adding the flexibility to maneuver and capture blind spots. Short

Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators   6 UAS Use Purpose Outcomes/Improvements Timeline Wildlife Management Use of UAS to monitor wildlife in the vicinity of the airport, interdict with any wildlife intrusions, and offer a deterrent through visual or audio interference. A safer deterrence, a platform to help raise situation awareness, or more immediate and effective interdiction methods to prevent the impact of wildlife in the vicinity of the airport on operations. Short Emergency Response Use of UAS to supplement on- site emergency personnel, to augment existing capabilities, or to provide new capabilities such as mobile lighting, surveillance, or appropriate resources allocation. Thermal sensors could also provide surveillance at night. New solution to responding to emergency situations. Among other answers, Tethered platforms can offer mobile and indefinite lighting sources to improve crew visibility and illumination at night. Airports can quickly mobilize UAS surveillance platforms to understand the scope of the emergency and allocate appropriate resources Medium 2.2 UAS Types Because small UAS (sUAS) are common and commercially accessible, guidance in this document focuses on these UAS types. These operations are regulated by the FAA’s Part 107 rule. These are platforms that weigh less than 55lbs, do not extend Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, and perform operations below 400ft AGL. Several off-the-shelf UAS platforms exist that allow airport operators to quickly implement UAS operations. These platforms are often supported by manufacturer warranties and maintenance services. However, given the diverse needs of airports, industry and engineering firms have also created unique, prototype, or limited-run platforms that help fill niche demands through use of new technology. Our guidance is focused on those platforms that are widely-available and off-the-shelf. There are many factors an operator must consider when choosing the appropriate type of UAS platform. Some factors to consider are the scope of the operation, anticipated payload, mission duration, traffic avoidance procedures, and time. UAS types should be categorized based on their platform size and capability. The sensor suites and potential uses relating to this UAS platform is also included in this section. 2.3 Sensors This section covers the basic sensor suites commonly found on sUAS platforms. These sensors can perform most uses that may be of interest to airport operators and are compatible with most off- the-shelf UAS platforms. An overview of the sensor and the output is described in this section.

Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators   7 2.3.1 RGB/High-Resolution Video/Photography 2.3.1.1 Overview High-resolution (RGB) cameras are the most common and widely used sensor on sUAS. This sensor allows suitable data collection for most inspection, monitoring, or security needs. Suitable software photogrammetric surveys can be done using this sensor. However, RGB sensor may have limited resolution and require proper lighting. If the objective of an operation is to obtain imagery, this operation must take place in a time window that offers enough lighting to sufficiently illuminate the target. This can impact winter operations when daylight is limited. Additionally, the altitude of flights must be flown such that the sensor can collect imagery at the desired resolution. The lower the altitude, the higher the resolution. However, lowering flying missions may take longer as the image or video taken can cover less area in a given amount of time. Identifying desired resolution, altitude, and hours of operation are all key parts of flight planning. 2.3.1.2 Output Data collected for RGB sensors will result in outputs in the form of photography or video. Basic file types are recognized by many forms of software. Off-the-shelf software can create photogrammetric mapping to allow for measurements and planning purposes. Data collected can easily be stored for future referencing and comparative analysis. For example, this type of data analysis can help with maintaining a record of pavement degradation or construction progress over time. 2.3.2 Thermal 2.3.2.1 Overview Thermal imagery can capture images that would otherwise not be picked up by an RGB sensor due to a lack of light. Thermal imagery captures the target’s heat signatures which allows for expanded operation hours, detection of signals, and objects that are visually difficult to detect. Thermal sensors are most useful for wildlife management, facility inspection, and land management. Thermal sensors can allow sUAS operators to pick up wildlife in the vicinity of the airport easily at all hours, understand thermal properties and inefficiencies of buildings, and detect personnel that may cause a threat or intrusion at the airport. 2.3.2.2 Output Thermal sensors will result in heat-based imagery and video useful for analyzing thermal inefficiencies of building roofing or materials which may impact heating and cooling demands (FLIR Systems AB, 2011). Video, life-feed or recorded, can help detect wildlife in the vicinity of the airport. This is particularly useful for areas with vegetation or forests lining the airport perimeter as visual detection is difficult. 2.3.3 Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) 2.3.3.1 Overview LiDAR sensors can capture data that require elevation and structural data resolution. Using light emitted by laser, drone-based LiDAR is capable of achieving 100-500 points per meter resolution (PrecisionHawk, n.d.). This offers high-resolution data capable of generating many products. LiDAR

Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators   8 is one of the more expensive sensor options available, however, recent years have seen the technology becoming more affordable with that trend expected to continue. 2.3.3.2 Output This resolution allows LiDAR collected data to be used to create orthomosaic images, 3D models, point clouds, and digital surface models. The high-resolution data generated provides users with flexibility when using the data. 2.4 Summary of UAS Platforms and Sensors Table 2 below summarizes common types of UAS platforms, off-the-shelf examples available, types of sensors, sample uses, and advantages/disadvantages of the platforms and sensors. Table 2: List of UAS platforms, sensors, uses, pros, and cons Platform Off-the-Shelf Examples Sensors Potential Uses Pros Cons Rotorcraft DJI Mavic Parrot ANAFI DJI Matric 200 series DJI Matric 600 3D Robotics Solo DJI Inspire 2 StormBee RGB/High- Resolution Imagery/Video LiDAR Thermal Pavement Inspection Facility Inspection Short-term perimeter monitoring Wildlife Management Land Survey Most versatile of platforms with its ability to hover in place and move laterally in any direction. Can host a wide arsenal of sensors to help accomplish any mission Relatively slow ground speed Low Endurance (short mission times) Light payload capacity Fixed-Wing AeroVironment RQ-11B Raven PrecisionHawk FireFly 6 RGB/High- Resolution Imagery/Video Thermal LiDAR Hyperspectral Multispectral LiDAR Pavement Inspection Land Survey Air Traffic Control Tower Inspection Surveillance Perimeter Monitoring Relatively fast ground speed Greater endurance Medium payload capacity Less versatility, limited return to home options Less maneuverabil ity Challenges obtaining desired resolution due to speed

Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators   9 Platform Off-the-Shelf Examples Sensors Potential Uses Pros Cons Tethered Elistair Orion Hoverfly Thermal RBG/High- Resolution Imagery/Video Surveillance Emergency Response Indefinite mission time Safety of tether alleviates lost-link concerns Nearly autonomous Small spatial coverage Larger logistical/equ ipment footprint Limited mission versatility 2.5 Impacts of UAS Use at Airports Given the many types of UAS platforms, sensors, and applications, it is important to understand the variety of impacts that result from UAS use at airports. These impacts can be categorized as safety, efficiency, and infrastructure. These impacts are summarized in Figure 1. Figure 1: A summary of the impacts of UAS operations within the vicinity of an airport • UAS operators that are unaware of manned aircraft operation (e.g. not in constant communication with air traffic control or relevant radio frequencies) pose a collission threat. • Manned aircraft pilot will have a challenging experience spotting sUAS and may not be aware of UAS operations in the vicinity. • UAS operations can also pose a threat to people within their flight path (such as airport staff below). • Services that currently present risk to personnel, such as air traffic control tower inspections or runway inspection, can be supplemented by UAS to minimize worker risk. Safety • UAS could improve the efficiency of current processes such as runway inspections, making it a more cost effective process. • UAS operations can interfere with manned flight takeoff and landing, which could cause delays. • Lack of appropriate coordination with stakeholders (such as local community members or airport tenants) could raise unnecessary emergency alerts that delay UAS operations and diminish its efficiency. Efficiency • UAS can be used to survey existing facilities at airports to provide data on infrastructure health. • Tall buildings, such as air traffic control towers, are obstacles that can be damaged if UAS are improperly operated. Infrastructure

Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators   10 2.5.1 Safety UAS integration can impact safety positively and negatively in many ways depending on how integration and implementation are handled. Services that currently present risk to personnel, such as air traffic control tower inspections or runway inspection, can be supplemented by UAS to minimize worker risk. Reducing the workload and vulnerability of airport personnel creates a safer environment for the UAS operators, airport personnel, and pilots. Conversely, introducing and using UAS at airports poses safety risks to routine manned aircraft operations. Mismanaged UAS can threaten routine operations when air traffic control (ATC) is unable to adequately maintain separation and understand the scope and location of the UAS. UAS also pose safety risks to airport personnel unaware of the UAS operation or operating in the vicinity. They may find themselves entering the area of operation unknowingly and put themselves at risk of injury. Finally, while equipment failure is rare, it is still something that must be considered and a falling UAS can pose severe injury risk. 2.5.2 Efficiency UAS can reduce the labor—both time and personnel—needed to accomplish most tasks. The speed and versatility of UAS ensures that space can be covered both vertically and horizontally and over large areas. For instance, while traditional methods of pavement inspection involve a person walking representative samples of the runway, a UAS can scan these areas more thoroughly, collecting a better sample while not putting a human life at risk on the runway. Additionally, a UAS can quickly ascend and survey the top of a building, tower, or instrument. This helps keep the hours of labor required to a minimum and increases efficiency. A caveat to this analysis is that, in the current market and uncertain regulatory environment, adoption of UAS is not guaranteed to increase efficiency in all airport operations and should be applied diligently. The cost of entry is the biggest factor when considering UAS. To purchase a platform or contract a UAS operator to perform an operation is typically the largest cost an airport will incur when using UAS. Labor costs are likely to decrease for the majority of uses and personnel and equipment required is also likely to decrease. 2.5.3 Infrastructure UAS can help airports maintain and utilize their infrastructure more efficiently and intelligently by using the additional data collected and capabilities provided by UAS. In the short- to medium-term sUAS integration does not require any major changes to existing airport infrastructure. However, when considering more long-term UAS uses such as passenger transport, package transport, or logistical support, there may be some needed updates to the existing airport infrastructure to aid the cohabitation of manned and unmanned vehicles. Airport infrastructure planning needs are described Best Practice Creating a Safer Environment: Before conducting any UAS operations, airport managers should alert any personnel and flights to the presence of the UAS operation. They should concisely convey the time, location, altitude, and purpose of the UAS operation in this alert.

Next: 3 Integrating UAS Related Risk into an SMS Plan »
Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators Get This Book
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Introduction of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will pose safety, economic, operational, regulatory, community, environmental, and infrastructure challenges to airports. These risks are further complicated by the dynamic nature of UAS technological development. Experiences and lessons learned from recent major aviation system changes demonstrate the critical importance of ensuring that airports have the resources needed to avoid adverse impacts and maximize benefits as early as possible.

This pre-publication draft of ACRP (Airport Cooperative Research Program) Research Report 212: Airports and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Volume 3: Potential Use of UAS by Airport Operators provides airports with resources to appropriately integrate UAS missions as part of their standard operations. The use of UAS by airports can result in efficiency gains if implemented effectively. However, improper implementation will cause safety risks and damage effective airport operations.

Other Resources:

Volume 1: Managing and Engaging Stakeholders on UAS in the Vicinity of Airports provides guidance for airport operators and managers to interact with UAS operations in the vicinity of airports.

Volume 2: Incorporating UAS into Airport Infrastructure—Planning Guidebook provides planning, operational, and infrastructure guidance to safely integrate existing and anticipated UAS operations into an airport environment.

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