A Multidisciplinary Approach to support Risk Assessment of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Missions in Austria
November 2019 to August 2022
Advancement of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, is seen by the European Union as a promising source of economic growth. A roadmap for the integration of drones into the united European skies forecasts that within the next couple of decades the number of UAS operations in urban areas will be raised to thousands of simultaneous flights. Recently adopted unified European legislation that regulates UAS operations follows an operation-centric risk- based approach, such that each drone operation is treated with respect to the level of risk it imposes on people and vulnerable objects in proximity. Thus, risk assessment becomes an integral part of each drone operation. The official Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA) approach differentiates between two risk categories: Ground Risk and Air Risk. Both risks are expected to be assessed at the stage of the UAS operation planning and to be continuously reassessed during the flight in order to avoid emerging hazards while a drone is in the sky.
A large number of simultaneous UAS operations, including autonomous flights, and the necessity to monitor the risks associated with each of them in real time presuppose automatic risk assessment and the high level of automation of UAS traffic management (UTM) in general. Since performing these tasks in a manual mode is infeasible, the EU has started the implementation of the U-Space, a system that will automate the UTM and enable a safe and efficient access to airspace for large numbers of drones. Member States are expected to take an active part in the U-Space development and to supply it with national geospatial data necessary for the automatic UAS operation risk assessment.
Currently there exist no standards concerning quality or nature of such geospatial data. Their formats are also undefined since standard formats used in aviation are designed to represent simple geometries covering large areas and are not suitable for high resolution data required for the UAS operation risk assessment. Drone Risk Austria exploratory project aims at closing these gaps by (1) developing detailed concepts for national geospatial data integration, (2) performing a prototypical implementation of the elaborated concepts and (3) implementing an interface for supplying the integrated geospatial data into a UTM system. In order to correctly define the scope of geospatial data required for the UAS operation risk assessment, Drone Risk Austria considers among others the so-called Weather Risk, that results from changing weather conditions and implies that a Ground Risk or an Air Risk will consequently occur. The technological platform developed within another FFG funded project, Drone Zone Austria, is planned to be used in order to quickly provide Austrian drone pilots with a tool that supports preliminary risk assessment based on the effective unified SORA approach. Drone Risk Austria is expected to support the U-Space development, to contribute to a smoother transition into the new European UAS regulatory framework, to increase drone operation safety and to serve as the first step on the road to ensuring legal certainty of UAS operations in the national airspace.
Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, Department of Geoinformation and Environmental Technologies
Austrian Research Promotion Agency (Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft – FFG) via the programme TAKE OFF