The drone sector needs to go back to the drawing board when it comes to regulating UAVs as the industry stands on the cusp of some massive structural changes over the next 12 months.
That’s the view of Harrison Wolf, project lead, ‘Civil Drones for Tomorrow’s Commerce, World Economic Forum, who says that “Google and Amazon” are one year out from becoming the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world.
Writing on the World Economic Forum website, Mr Wolf noted that with the FAA predicting between 2.75 Million and 4.47 Million small drones flying in the US by 2021, the sheer density of traffic will prove unmanageable without a revolutionary new approach; one that he says won’t exist without an overhaul in how certification of systems works today.
“Removing an on-board pilot changes more than aerodynamics, it changes the very concept of safety for the aircraft,” he wrote. “Legacy aviation legislation and regulation had been written to protect those on the ground by protecting those in the sky. With drones, it may be tolerable to have failures so long as they are considerate of population density, airspace environments, and include protective systems that are reliable.”
Mr Wolf said that there is now evidence of a novel approach to aircraft certification for small drones beginning to take hold.
“Given the diversity of use cases for drone technologies, a standardised benchmarking approach should be created for certification. In other words, drone designs that meet certain high standards would be granted the most access to airspace, while those that cannot meet that standard can only operate where failure is more tolerable (ie, over the ocean, a field, etc),” he argues.
Mr Wolf concluded that for success in the unmanned aircraft world to be realised, the future of certification must incorporate a “re-imagining” of the processes by which governments engage manufacturers, software developers, end-users, academia, and the military.