Setting Up International Drone Standards

Ten years ago there was hardly a drone in the sky, today there are millions and in ten more years its a good possibility that there will be drone highways a few hundred feet above us. As drones become more commonplace, countries are setting up their own regulations and there is talk of setting up an international standards for drones.

According to The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which sets global standards for the aviation industry, 65 countries currently have rules governing the use of small drones (sUAS). But a lot of those rules are not on the same page. Even countries of the European Union, who have unified and standardized rules about many things, don’t have any clear standards for drones. The IATA wants to prevent situations like this and plans to create a global framework for the use of drones. From what they are saying right now, IATA wants to create rules that help bolster the innovative business opportunities that drones provide while limited risks they pose for planes, people and privacy rights. However, the IATA’s efforts for global drones standards are still very much so a work in progress.

In Asia, Japan is working to create its own international standards. Various Japanese government entities, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) are working together to develop standards that increase safety and control of drones.

Japan is currently developing a system to pinpoint drone location and new technologies to better stabilize flight. Japan will start putting together the standards latter this year with the hope of submitting standards to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) by 2020.

In both cases (IATA and Japan) exact details of the standard they plan to create have not been released, because work has just begun. But standards will have to apply to key technologies and issues like sense and avoid, location/flight tracking (including how to share this info), adjusting to real-time situations, physical flight performance (for weather, stability and flight time), and many others. Then there is the whole issue of getting anyone to actually adhere to these standards, including manufacturers.

It’s too early to say if these efforts by the IATA and Japan will work. But even if they don’t, it’s a chance to start an important conversation. Guidelines and standards that promote safety in construction, usage and legal regulation can help address fears about drones and help in international integration of the technology.

As drones become more common, there will be commercial and even private use of drones across borders (just think about European countries or the US-Canada borderlands) and there needs to be a way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

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