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67 C H A P T E R 6 This report is intended to present a summary of current practice on the use of UAS by air- ports, airport contractors, and airport tenants. In addition, conclusions can be drawn from the data gathered to arrive at a state of current practice and provide insight to airports moving forward. These conclusions are the topic of this chapter. Conclusion 1 Approximately 9% of participating airports are actively using UAS for airport purposes. Although this study was limited in scope, the random nature of participant selection might indicate that, in general, the vast majority of airports nationwide do not own UAS or use UAS for airport purposes. This would indicate that airports do not yet understand or appreciate the benefits of UAS technology to either further enhance their existing efforts or enable completely new efforts. As one participant explained, âDo not be closed minded to UAS. Do some research, get to know your local UAS operators, and understand that they are almost stricter in their operations than airport operators are.â Conclusion 2 For those airports that have adopted UAS for their own purposes, there is wide variability in their use. In fact, the majority of these airports report using UAS for inspections, monitoring, measurement, and other activities, including media/marketing, training, and school outreach. This would indicate that UAS are quite flexible, benefiting airports in a number of different missions. It is quite likely that any airport could find an effective use of UAS for their airport. Conclusion 3 Approximately 32% of contractors are utilizing UAS for contractor purposes, most often associ- ated with a project each contractor is completing for the airport. The findings indicate that contrac- tors might be considered early adopters of UAS technology, as one-third of participating airports indicated that contractors have utilized UAS on airports. Findings indicate that most of this use supplements media/marketing efforts by the contractor, likely to document completed projects. Conclusion 4 Approximately 16% of airport tenants are utilizing UAS for tenant purposes, most often asso- ciated with a project the tenant is performing or contracting out. Although less active than contractors working on behalf of the airport, tenants are somewhat active with UAS technology. Conclusions and Further Research
68 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports This includes on-airport tenants such as UAS manufacturers, UAS collegiate programs, Depart- ment of Defense programs, and UAS research and development programs. Conclusion 5 Generally, metrics to evaluate the impacts of UAS on airports, whether positive or negative, have not been developed. Although airports active in UAS report benefits, little formal tracking of these benefits is occurring. Yet, there are advantages to quantifying the benefits of UAS to airport management and various stakeholders, including the community. Metrics that might be adopted by airports to track the impacts and performance of UAS include â¢ Quantity of personnel hours saved, â¢ Amount of cost reduction, â¢ Amount of time spent or saved on task, â¢ Amount of airfield closure time, â¢ Locations of UAS operations, â¢ Degree (or level of) accuracy, â¢ Degree (or level of) operational impact, â¢ Level of documentation, â¢ Degree of enhanced time-series recording, â¢ Degree (or level of) Part 139 compliance, â¢ Number of Part 139 discrepancies, â¢ Number of foreign object debris incidents, â¢ Number of wildlife strikes, â¢ Number of UA or aircraft strikes, â¢ Number of UA or aircraft near misses, â¢ Number of UA airspace conflicts, â¢ Level of enhanced resource management, â¢ Number of UA operational requests, â¢ Number of LAANC approvals, â¢ Time to train personnel, â¢ Level of outreach to the public or schools, and â¢ Risk mitigation (safety enhancement). Those metrics most used by participating 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. Conclusion 6 In general, it appears that there is a lack of knowledge and awareness regarding UAS by airport operators. Findings indicate that approximately 40% of airports are either unsure of, or know- ingly lack, the level of knowledge necessary to begin UAS activities. As one participant stated, âTo be honest, I have not kept up with the ever-changing regulations concerning UAS.â The industry is constantly evolving, to include technology and policy, which has made it difficult for airport staff to stay current on UAS. Thus, airports might find it easier to avoid UAS than to exert the time and energy necessary to learn the myriad platforms, regulations, and so on. This reason alone might account for the 90+% of airports not yet owning or using UAS for their own purposes. However, UAS-active airports have generally had good success by appointing one staff member to remain current in all things UAS. Generally, this staff member has been younger and arrives on the job with UAS experience already in hand.
Conclusions and Further Research 69 Conclusion 7 Of those airports active in UAS, at least one staff member is generally 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 complying with 14 C.F.R. Part 107 was sufficient for their use. Conclusion 8 Challenges to UAS use by airport sponsors are to be expected. Commonly reported challenges involve certifying pilots under Part 107 and obtaining COAs or waivers. Other challenges involve coordinating with the local ATCT personnel and educating the surrounding community. Conclusion 9 Generally, airports active with UAS indicated satisfaction with the existing FAA framework that governs UAS operations. Although it was acknowledged that the regulatory landscape is evolving, airports report good support from the FAA with UAS use on airport. Conclusion 10 Airports active in UAS use on airport readily share advice to support other airports wanting to adopt UAS technology in their operations. The most common pieces of advice include (a) work- ing with the FAA, (b) training, (c) communication, and (d) knowing and following the rules. As one participant explained, âKeep in mind, the airport controls the surface on the airport, while FAA controls airspace. If the airport wants to use UAS they are no longer the controlling agency, they are a user.â Conclusion 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. Future Considerations for Airports The future of the airport industry will be, in no small terms, characterized by rapid innovation. Biometrics, innovative revenue sources, and yes, UAS will become standard operating procedure. Airports that have already adopted UAS to enhance their operational capabilities are on the leading edge of this innovation. As the FAA continues progressing toward full integration of UAS into the NAS, airports that embrace this technology, while also ensuring safety of airports and airspace, will stand to benefit the most. Airports that stand in opposition to UAS, either for their own purposes or general public use, will likely experience reduced operating performance as this innovative tech- nology continues moving forward and carrying the forward-thinking airport professionals with it. In an effort to align with this innovative technology and benefit from its use, airport profes- sionals with an eye on the future will â¢ Stay abreast of evolving regulations, technology, and uses by attending industry trade shows, conferences, and meetings such as AUVSI XPONENTIAL, the AAAE Unmanned Aircraft
70 Current Landscape of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Airports Systems Integration Conference, and the FAA UAS Symposium. Industry calendars are avail- able at https://www.modelaircraft.org/event-calendar; https://www.auvsi.org/events; https:// www.aaae.org/aaae/AAEMemberResponsive/PD/Meetings/AAAE_Meetings_Calendar.aspx; and https://connect.airportscouncil.org/events/calendar. â¢ Develop concept of operations plan, communication plan, standard operating procedures, and performance measures to ensure regulatory compliance and support development and continuation of UAS operation. â¢ Become a UAS operator, via one of the means discussed in this report, to enhance operational efficiency and perform current and future tasks in an innovative fashion that contributes to safety of personnel. â¢ Support law enforcement, fire department, and other public safety uses of UAS in the airport area and nearby vicinity. â¢ Support contractor and tenant use of UAS. â¢ Engage UAS operators on topics of UAS safety and airport protocols via community outreach tools such as websites and town hall meetings. â¢ Recruit UAS manufacturers and professional UAS operators to the airport. â¢ Consider detection and mitigation technology as appropriate to ensure safety of all operationsâmanned aircraft, unmanned aircraft, and optionally piloted aircraft. â¢ Share experiences with peer airports to enable continued evolution of airport practices with UAS. Further Research Although this synthesis presents the current landscape of UAS use by airports, the landscape is changing daily. Therefore, with this rapid evolution of UAS technology, continued research on this topic is warranted, especially in light of a changing regulatory landscape. Especially use- ful will be the early adopters of UAS in the airport industry. By sharing examples of airport use of UAS to enhance efficiency and measure the impacts, airports tentative in this area may be encouraged by the benefits, subsequently resulting in widespread integration of UAS by air- ports. The metrics and data points tracked by airports to measure the positive (and negative) impacts of UAS will also be insightful. Additional research on contractor and tenant use of UAS at airports will also enlighten the airport industry as to the possible uses of UAS by these air- port entities. Research on municipal and state codes and ordinances addressing UAS would be insightful. Finally, additional research would be helpful in the areas of airport-developed SOPs, communications plans, LOAs/MOUs, and other UAS guidelines.