Collaboration crucial to address risks of drone-related airport disruption

ACI World Director General addresses the issue at Canada Airports 2019

Kelowna, 30 May 2019Airports Council International (ACI) World today emphasized the need for collaboration and the development of globally harmonized regulations and standards to help airports address the risks posed by drone-related disruption to aircraft operations.

Speaking at Airports Canada 2019 – organized by the Canadian Airports Council, the Canadian division of ACI-North America – ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said that all players must play a part in keeping airspace and airports safe when it comes to drones.

“This is a growing threat that will require a great deal of collaboration among the ‘legacy’ aviation stakeholders and the manufacturers and users of the new aviation modes, as well as government which will set the rules to safeguard aviation users and the general population.

“Keeping airspace and airports safe needs the development of globally harmonized regulations and standards for the operation of drones, within a framework that promotes the safety of all aircraft sharing the skies. Airports have a vested interest, and need to be included, in the planning and development of national regulations and standards that determine how ‘useful’ drones will be integrated into the aviation system and unwanted drones will be kept away from sensitive areas.”

Since 2016, ACI has been advocating two main points. Firstly, the predominant  authorities for enforcement activities and initiating anti-drone measures are the relevant national authority and local law enforcement agencies and, secondly, that it is incumbent on all industry stakeholders to protect themselves and to work in coordination with each other.

Following the well-publicized drone incident at London Gatwick Airport at the end of 2018, ACI published an advisory bulletin in January 2019 which encouraged airports to initiate dialogue with their national authorities and local law enforcement agencies, on a risk-based approach, and to draw up a Concept of Operations and Standard Operating Procedures for anti-drone measures at airports in advance, stating how a sighting or detection will be classified, and what action will be taken and by whom. The work can be divided into two categories: surveillance and detection systems and procedures; and, systems and procedures for intervention and control.

ACI published general guidance on anti-drone measures  in the ACI Drones Policy Paper of July 2018, which stated that drone operations should be facilitated provided they do not have a negative impact on airport safety, security, efficiency and capacity. The policy covered drone traffic management, regulations, enforcement, identification and tracking, operations, training and security.  The aim of the paper is to guide our members and establish a global airport position with industry and regulatory bodies in the development and application of regulations and standards.

ACI World Director General Angela Gittens also spoke on the development of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) for drones, which would manage drones in low level airspace and complement conventional Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems, helping airports to control risk and determine which are the non-cooperative drones.

“An effective interface between the UTM and ATM systems in the near future and their eventual merger into a single system has the potential to enhance the safety, security, and efficiency of the entire aviation community,” said Angela Gittens. “Such a system could have the potential to lead us safely into the future of aviation that is expected to see drone operations surpass the number of manned aircraft operations. For this we will also need harmonized regulations.”

The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) recently announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Mitigation at Airports. The Task Force brings together a cross-section of stakeholders representing the airport, UAS and manned aviation communities to refine procedural practices and provide a policy framework to address the timely and critical issue of incursions by unauthorized UAS at airports and how best to mitigate this threat.

Notes for editors

  1. Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports, was founded in 1991 with the objective of fostering cooperation among its member airports and other partners in world aviation, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization. In representing the best interests of airports during key phases of policy development, ACI makes a significant contribution toward ensuring a global air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2019, ACI serves 646 members, operating 1,960 airports in 176 countries.

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