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44 C H A P T E R 4 Although 130 total survey responses were received, many survey items did not have 130 responses. Even so, figures present actual number of responses, and descriptive statistics in the form of means (averages) are also presented and discussed as appropriate. The survey had three main qualifying questions, to which if the participants answered no, skip logic moved the participant forward to the next qualifying question, skipping questions related to the question answered in the negative. The three main qualifying questions were: 1. Does your airport own and operate a UAS/drone on airport? 2. Have airport contractors operated a UAS/drone on your airport? 3. Have airport tenants operated a UAS/drone on your airport? As seen in Figure 18, only 12 participating airports (9.2% of the 130 participating airports) own and operate UAS on airport. This practice is more common among contractors and tenants. Indeed, 40 participating airports (30.8%) report contractor use of UA while 20 participating airports (15.4%) report tenant use of UA on airport. Even though most participants answered âNoâ to these three questions, and thus quickly moved through the survey without being presented additional questions related to the use of UAS by the airport, contractors, or tenants, this nonetheless represents valid findings. In essence, one item of interest discovered in the responses is that the majority of airports surveyed do not own and operate UAS, and neither have contractors or tenants operated UAS on their airport. This was expected, as the UAS industry is still young, even though growing rapidly, and the lit- erature did not, in general, highlight UAS use by airports. What is most interesting, of course, are those airports that have adopted UAS for their purposes, or have allowed tenants and contrac- tors to do so. This is the area where airports may learn from those who are already active with UAS. The results presented in this chapter mainly refer to these UAS-active airports. Use Summary The landscape of UAS use at airports is quite varied. Some airports are very active with UAS use. Others have contractors and/or tenants active with UAS use. Although contractors appear to be most active with UAS use, the UAS landscape at airports it evolving. It is anticipated that more airport operators will become active with UAS in the future. The degree of UAS use by airports, contractors, and tenants, including for which specific purposes, is summarized in Figure 19. Specific uses are discussed in the following sections. Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Inspections There are a number of different inspections that UAS may perform at airports. The various inspection activities are presented in Figure 20 and discussed in detail in the following sections. Survey Results
Survey Results 45 Figure 19. Number of airports reporting UAS use by organization and type of activity. Figure 18. Degree to which participating entities own and operate UAS on airport. Airports Ten airports (7.7% of the 130 participating airports) reported utilizing UAS/UA to con- duct inspection activities. Some airports are responsible for conducting daily self-inspections to maintain 14 C.F.R. Part 139 compliance and ensure a safe airport operating environ- ment. Some airports are also responsible for conducting perimeter inspections to maintain 49 C.F.R. Part 1542 compliance and ensure a secure airport operating environment. All air- ports, whether or not responsible for complying with these regulations, conduct inspections of their airfield and facilities to maintain their airports in a safe and operable condition. It is interesting to note that a handful of airports have adopted UAS to assist with these mandated inspections. Airports report using UAS for a great number of inspection activities (Figure 21). The most commonly reported types of inspections, each conducted at 5 of the 10 participating airports
46 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports Figure 20. Inspection activities. conducting inspections (50.0%), include (a) perimeter inspections, (b) building inspections, and (c) wildlife nest and habitat inspections. Other commonly reported types of inspections include (a) aircraft maintenance, (b) safety areas, (c) T-hangar inspections, and (d) search and rescue. Those listed as âotherâ include inspections of wetland mitigation, stormwater detention ponds, incidents or accidents, and construction activities. Certainly, UAS provide a unique aerial vantage point not possible with ground-based vehicles. Additionally, they allow access to areas mostly inaccessible by ground-based means, including wetlands, wildlife nesting and habitats, and stormwater detention ponds. Contractors Of the 40 participating airports reporting contractor use of UAS, 13 of these airports (32.5%) allowed contractors to use the UAS for inspection purposes. According to participating air- ports, contractors used the UAS for a great number of different purposes. The most common use reported by seven participating airports (17.5%) was pavement and markings inspections. A number of other common inspections activities included (a) perimeters, (b) safety areas, (c) ramps, (d) taxiway/runway bridges, (e) aircraft maintenance hangars, (f) T-hangars, and (g) buildings. As expected, the specific inspection activity is related to the contractorâs project or service to the airport. See Figure 22.
Figure 21. Specific inspection activities for which airports are using UAS.
Figure 22. Specific inspection activities for which contractors are using UAS.
Survey Results 49 Tenants Of the 20 participating airports reporting UAS activity by tenants, 5 airports (25%) indi- cated that tenants were using UAS for inspection purposes. Although tenants are using UAS for (a) aircraft maintenance hangar inspections, (b) search and rescue, and (c) other building inspections, most are inspecting in âotherâ areas. These other areas include (a) perimeter secu- rity inspections, (b) airframe and hull inspections, and (c) research and development into a wide variety of uses. See Figure 23. Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Monitoring UAS can also be utilized for various monitoring purposes. Airports, contractors, and tenants reported different purposes, based on the intended mission (Figure 24). Airports Seven of the 130 participating airports (5.4%) utilize UAS for monitoring activities. VTOL UAS are particularly useful at remaining in a fixed position to monitor and observe activities as they unfold, although fixed-wing UA have also been used successfully in monitoring missions. The most common type of monitoring activity, reported by six of the seven participating air- ports (85.7%), is related to construction projects. Generally, UAS are used to monitor progress Figure 23. Specific inspection activities for which tenants are using UAS.
50 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports with airfield projects, but also terminal projects. Documenting progress of these projects is prov- ing quite useful. Additional monitoring activities reported by numerous participating airports include (a) aircraft accident response, (b) wildlife hazard management, (c) natural disaster, and (d) hazardous materials incidents. As previously discussed, the aerial vantage point provided by UAS can prove quite useful to airports in monitoring these various activities. See Figure 25. Contractors Seven of the 40 airports (17.5%) allowing contractor use of UAS reported that contractors were using UAS for monitoring activities. By far, the most commonly reported monitoring activity was construction project monitoring, reported by seven airports. One airport indicated that a contractor, possibly a contractor for the USDA, was using UAS for wildlife hazard moni- toring. Although these were the only two monitoring activities referenced, it is possible that contractors may ask to use UAS for more purposes in the future. See Figure 26. Tenants Of the 20 airports reporting tenant use of UAS, two (10%) indicated that tenants are using UAS for monitoring purposes. The specific monitoring activities mentioned include perimeter monitoring and R&D. Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Measurement In addition to the common UAS uses of inspections and monitoring, UAS are also being utilized for measurement purposes. Airports, contractors, and tenants have adopted UAS to measure in different ways (Figure 27). Figure 24. Monitoring activities.
Survey Results 51 Figure 25. Specific monitoring activities for which the airports are using UAS. Figure 26. Specific monitoring activities for which the contractors are using UAS.
52 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports Figure 27. Measurement activities. Airports Airport use of UAS for measurement purposes is not very common. Only 3 of the 12 partici- pating airports active in UAS (25%) reported using UAS in this manner. The most commonly reported use of UAS for measurement purposes, reported by two of the three participating airports (66.7%), was stockpile material measurements. Participating air- ports also report conducting pavement crack detection and measurement and airspace analysis. Depending on the UAS platform, photogrammetry allows 3-D measurements to be developed from 2-D images, enabling aerial mapping, aerial surveying, and volumetric calculations. See Figure 28. Contractors Although the majority of participating airports indicated that contractors do not use UAS for measurement purposes, 16 of the 40 airports with contractor use of UAS (40%) did indicate that contractors were active in this area. Although six participating airports (37.5%) indicated that contractors were using UAS for Part 77 airspace analysis and measurement, most indicated uses in âotherâ areas. These other areas include (a) pavement condition measurement and (b) surveying. With lidar-equipped UAS, for example, specific measurements can be made. See Figure 29. Tenants Three of the 20 airports with tenant use of UAS (15%) report that tenants were using UAS for measurement purposes. Although one participating airport mentioned a tenant using UAS for
Survey Results 53 Figure 28. Specific measurement activities for which airports are using UAS. Figure 29. Specific measurement activities for which contractors are using UAS.
54 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports Part 77 airspace analysis measurement, other uses include training, land surveying, and research and development. Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Other Purposes Although inspections, monitoring, and measurement are the three main uses of UAS, airports are also using UAS for other purposes. These purposes show both how versatile UAS are and how innovative airport staff are. See Figure 30. Airports In addition to inspections, monitoring, and measurement, 8 of the 12 airports active with UAS (66.7%) reported using UAS for âotherâ purposes. The most common use of UAS in this âotherâ category was media/marketing purposes. By showcasing new terminals, parking garages, and even airfield improvement with aerial images and FMV, an airport supports their marketing and branding efforts. Interestingly, five airports are using UAS for training efforts. One participating airport shared their experience of recording airfield video by UAS to assist in training airport operations personnel. These new hires are able to watch a typical airfield inspection video from the comfort of an office, learning the airfield layout in a much more dynamic fashion than simply studying an airport diagram. Some airports are using their UAS for outreach to local schools to generate interest in aviation. By taking the UAS to these schools and even providing flight demonstrations, students get excited about aviation careers, while also becoming enthused about the airport. Other responses include special events and safety and law enforcement. See Figure 31. Figure 30. Use of UAS by airports for other activities.
Survey Results 55 Contractors Of the 40 participating airports with contractors using UAS, 22 (55%) indicated that contrac- tors were using UAS for purposes other than inspections, monitoring, and measurement. The most common âotherâ activity, reported by 16 airports (72.7%), was related to media/market- ing efforts. Often, this becomes part of the contractorâs portfolio. By obtaining high-quality aerial images or video, the contractor is able to present a robust portfolio of past projects. Other responses included (a) wildlife harassment and (b) construction progress photos. See Figure 32. Tenants In addition to inspections, monitoring, and measurement, 17 of the 20 airports allowing ten- ant use of UAS (85%) indicated that tenants were using UAS for âotherâ purposes. These other purposes include media/marketing as well as training and school outreach. However, most other activities fell into another âotherâ category. Additional uses include (a) large UAS use by the Department of Defense, with the MQ-9 most commonly listed; (b) research and development; and (c) university training. See Figure 33. Additional Findings of Interest Metrics To assist airport operators with program justification for UAS operations, the study intended to determine which metrics were in use at airports to measure the benefits of UAS. Through a review of literature on this topic and discussions with airport staff, very few metrics were discov- ered. In essence, benefits of UAS use are known among airports, but possibly not measured. Yet, in an effort to develop a closed-ended survey item on this topic, many metrics were introduced as might be reasonable for survey participantsâ response. Even so, 59 of 97 airports answering this question (60.8%) indicated that they do not use any metrics. This finding simply supported Figure 31. Specific other activities for which airports are using UAS.
56 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports Figure 32. Specific other activities for which contractors are using UAS. Figure 33. Specific other activities for which tenants are using the UAS.
Survey Results 57 the findings of the literature and discussions with airport staff. Of those 38 participating airports that have adopted metrics, the most commonly used metrics were (a) amount of cost reduction, (b) amount of time spent or saved, and (c) number of UA operational requests. Additional metrics included (a) quantity of personnel hours saved, (b) amount of airfield closure time, (c) degree or level of accuracy, (d) degree or level of operational impact, (e) level of documenta- tion, and (f) number of UA airspace conflicts. Note that metrics can be either quantitative or qualitative. Airports likely see value in adopting both types of measures. See Figure 34. The metrics presented in the survey are not all-encompassing, and it is anticipated that addi- tional metrics and data points will be developed as more airports adopt UAS. Possible future elements might include knowledge of rules and regulations, authority with respect to UAS, com- munications plans, detecting, reporting, among others. Challenges Airports were queried about challenges experienced in either the operation of UAS or the accommodation of UAS operations by contractors or tenants. Challenges were shared by 85 participating airports (65.4% of the 130 participating airports). Although responses were quite diverse, several themes were apparent: â¢ Difficulty understanding or working within FAA regulations, â¢ Challenge in coordinating UAS operations with local ATCT or regional ATC, â¢ Lack of public knowledge on UAS guidelines, â¢ Difficulty finding qualified personnel with knowledge of UAS operations, and â¢ No major challenges yet, little or no UAS activity at or around the field. Verbatim responses shared by participating airports in responses to this question are pre- sented in Appendix A. Awareness or Knowledge of Unmanned Autonomous Systems To determine if lack of awareness or knowledge of UAS was a reason for low UAS use by air- ports, participating airports were asked if they would know how to begin using UAS/UA, includ- ing the regulations to follow and authorizations needed. Of the 105 airports answering this question, 62 (59%) indicated that they are sufficiently knowledgeable, 27 (25.7%) were unsure, and 16 (15.2%) were not knowledgeable enough to begin safely and legally using UAS/UA. This would indicate that overall, airport staff are well equipped in terms of knowledge to begin UAS activities if desired. Yet, there are numerous airports (43 in this study) that are admittedly not sufficiently knowledgeable or unsure whether they are. Thus, more educational outreach is needed to these airportsâone of the goals of this synthesis. Ability to Operate Unmanned Autonomous Systems Within Context of Current Regulations To determine how well airport operators are able to use UAS within the current regula- tory framework, participating airports were asked about the degree to which this was possible. Although responses varied, several themes were apparent: â¢ Use is not permitted or airport does not wish to use UAS. â¢ Trying to apply for FAA waiver. â¢ Unlimited or nearly unlimited use of UAS due to FAA waiver. â¢ ATC restrictions. â¢ Limited use due to amount of traffic at field.
Figure 34. Metrics (performance measurements) that airports have adopted to measure impacts (positive or negative) of UAS operations on their airport (LAANC = Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability).
Survey Results 59 â¢ Level of freedom is dependent on area of the field in which operation is taking place. â¢ Airport is a designated test site following those guidelines. Verbatim responses shared by participating airports in response to this question are presented in Appendix A. Advice for Other Airports To enable some information sharing within this report, airports active in UAS were asked to share their words of advice to other airports intending to safely operate UAS on airport (or allow contractors or tenants to do so). Words of advice were shared by 81 participants. Themes that were apparent include â¢ Coordinate with ATC early, get their buy-in, and establish a clear and effective way for UAS operators to communicate with them. â¢ Hire UAS professionals to help start the program and understand that not all Part 107 licensed personnel are âqualifiedâ to do this job. â¢ Establish a UAS board at the airport with representatives from each relevant department to ensure proper communication of plans and operations. â¢ Have a clear risk management and safety plan in place before you begin operations. â¢ Begin the process with the FAA early for waivers or other needed items; this takes a long time and a lot of patience.