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1 The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry is on the cutting edge of aviation inno- vation. This newest segment of the aviation industry is currently in an aggressive growth mode. Daily, new uses of UAS are being discovered around the world, which are enhanc- ing career opportunities in this field as well as the economic benefits of this segment of the industry. More recently, airports, including tenants and contractors, are discovering the benefits of UAS to their operations and bottom line. Yet, with the diversity of UAS applica- tions at airports, there has been a lack of relevant industry data on this topic to inform the airport industry on current practices. In an attempt to better understand the current landscape of UAS use at airports through- out the United States and fill a gap in existing industry data on this topic, this synthesis was undertaken. The objective of this synthesis was to understand the degree of UAS use, including specific applications, by three groups: airports, airport contractors, and airport tenants. This synthesis is an airport-focused study and did not seek to learn about UAS use off-airport by others. In addition to a comprehensive literature review, this synthesis examines the use of UAS at 160 airports nationwide. Using responses from 130 airports, the current landscape of UAS use at airports is presented. This landscape includes both benefits and challenges. Benefits of UAS use include increased cost savings; reduced time on task; reduced person- nel needed; reduced airfield closure time; and enhanced marketing, training, and outreach. Challenges include FAA restrictions and regulations, the time needed to become educated and certified as a remote pilot, and developing airport policies that do not conflict with state and federal regulations. Participating airports reported that they are generally able to use UAS within the context of existing FAA regulations. Some airports apply for and receive a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) versus operating strictly within 14 C.F.R. Part 107. Participating airports readily shared advice for airports considering the integration of UAS operations. Common themes of advice are to (a) develop a UAS policy, (b) establish lines of communication with the air traffic control tower (ATCT) and FAA, (c) provide sufficient training, (d) be open-minded to UAS, and (e) know the rules and follow them. Key conclusions of the synthesis are as follows: 1. Approximately 9% of participating airports are actively using UAS for airport purposes, meaning the majority are not. Although this study was limited in scope, the random nature of participant selection might indicate that, in general, the majority of airports nationwide do not own UA or use UA for airport purposes. This would indicate that S U M M A R Y Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports
2 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports airports either (a) do not yet understand or appreciate the benefits of UAS technology to either further enhance their existing efforts or enable completely new efforts and/or (b) are unsure of safe practices for the use of UAS on airport. 2. For those airports that have adopted UAS for their own purposes, there is wide vari- ability in their use. In fact, the majority of these airports report using UAS for inspec- tions, monitoring, measurement, and other activities, including media/marketing, training, and Kâ12 outreach. 3. Approximately 32% of airports report that contractors are utilizing UAS for their own purposes, most often associated with a project each contractor is completing for the airport. Uses include obtaining aerial footage of completed projects for marketing purposes, pavement inspections, construction progress monitoring, and surveying. 4. Approximately 16% of airports report that tenants are utilizing UAS for their own purposes, most often associated with a project that the tenant is performing or con- tracting out. Uses include building inspections, airframe hull inspections, development, training, surveying, and marketing. 5. Generally, metrics to evaluate the impacts of UAS on airports, whether positive or nega- tive, have not been developed. Although airports active in UAS report benefits, little formal tracking of these benefits is occurring. Those metrics most used by airports include (a) amount of time saved or spent, (b) amount of cost reduction, (c) number of UA operational requests, (d) quantity of personnel hours saved, (e) amount of airfield closure time, and (f) degree or level of accuracy. 6. In general, there appears to be a lack of knowledge and awareness about UAS by airport operators. Findings indicate that approximately 40% of airports are either unsure of, or knowingly lack, the level of knowledge necessary to begin UAS activities. 7. Of those airports active in UAS, at least one staff member is an FAA Remote Pilot, and all flights are conducted in compliance with 14 C.F.R. Part 107. Although obtaining a COA allows greater use in varying conditions, most airports indicated their compliance with 14 C.F.R. Part 107 without the need for a COA. 8. Commonly reported challenges involve certifying pilots under Part 107, and obtaining COAs. Other challenges involve coordinating with local ATCT personnel and educating the surrounding community. 9. Generally, airports active with UAS indicated satisfaction with the existing FAA frame- work that governs UAS operations. Although it was acknowledged that the regulatory landscape is evolving, airports report favorable support from the FAA with UAS use on airport. 10. Airports active in UAS use advised airports considering the integration of UAS to (a) coordinate with the FAA, (b) conduct training, (c) maintain open communication, and (d) know and follow the rules. 11. For airports with a safety management system in place, integrating UAS can support safety risk management practices. Numerous airport operational activities can be accomplished with less cost, less risk, and better accuracy with UAS. Airport professionals with an eye on the future will 1. Stay abreast of evolving regulations, technology, and uses by attending industry trade shows, conferences, and meetings (e.g., AUVSI XPONENTIAL, the AAAE Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Conference, and the FAA UAS Symposium). Industry cal- endars are available at https://www.modelaircraft.org/event-calendar; https://www.auvsi. org/events; https://www.aaae.org/aaae/AAAEMemberResponsive/PD/Meetings/AAAE_ Meetings_Calendar.aspx; and https://connect.airportscouncil.org/events/calendar. 2. Develop concept of an operations plan, a communication plan, standard operating procedures, and performance measures to ensure regulatory compliance and support development and continuation of UAS operation.
Summary 3 3. Become a UAS operator, via one of the means discussed in this report, to enhance op- erational efficiency and perform current and future tasks in an innovative fashion that contributes to safety of personnel. 4. Support law enforcement, fire department, and other public safety uses of UAS in the airport area and nearby vicinity. 5. Support contractor and tenant use of UAS. 6. Engage UAS operators on topics of UAS safety and airport protocols via community outreach tools, such as websites or town hall meetings. 7. Recruit UAS manufacturers and professional UAS operators to the airport. 8. Consider detection and mitigation technology as appropriate to ensure safety of all operationsâmanned aircraft, unmanned aircraft, and optionally piloted aircraft. 9. Share experiences with peer airports to enable continued evolution of airport practices with UAS. This report does not propose best practices or guidance, but offers a synthesis of infor- mation from 130 airports nationwide in the area of UAS use. Although practices vary and lessons learned differ, themes are identified that will be useful to airports considering the integration of UAS to support operational activities. The report is organized into six chapters and three appendices and includes references and web resources as well as a glossary.