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Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Jimmy Smith is the UAS Representative 

Background:  Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ safe integration into the NAS is an on-going process that continually evolves with rapidly changing technological advancements.  UAS integration will require new laws, policies, practices, procedures, and standards. All of these changes are taking place concurrently with the advances in the capabilities of UAS proponents.  UAS integration is a long-term project that will grow as the system adjusts to the new entrants introduced daily. 

The FAA is developing an update to UAS Facility Map (UASFM) sizes in collaboration with NATCA.  The current grid size is 60 seconds lat/long (1 sq mile). The new map size will be 30 seconds of lat/long and partition the current grids into quad grids, allowing more flexibility in approving operations. Testing scheduled for Aug 2021, and implementation planned for the fall of 2021. NATCA and the FAA will collaborate on the selection of facilities to be included in the testing. 

The FAA is developing a UASFM Altitude Analysis Algorithm to generate grid altitudes based on traffic data. The tool is still in the conceptual phase, and there is no timeline for testing or implementation. 

The ATO UAS Services with six workgroups to move UAS integration forward in the NAS is still on-going, and NATCA is involved in all groups.  

ATO UAS Services Plan six priorities: 

1.    Drive UAS Integration 

2.    UAS Operations at or near airports 

3.    Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations 

4.    Establish Geospatial Management Capabilities 

5.    Standardize UAS Operations with Security Stakeholders 

6.    Improve and Automate Airspace Requests 

Section 383 (Counter UAS) testing at Atlantic City is in its planning phase.  The FAA will test multiple detection devices using different technologies.  All tests will be conducted under Part 107 and contained in UASFM grid altitudes. The FAA also selected four additional airports to conduct testing: 

·       Atlantic City International Airport in Atlantic City, New Jersey 

·       Syracuse Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, New York 

·       Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio 

·       Huntsville International Airport in Huntsville, Alabama 

·       Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, Washington 

New suspicious UAS reporting procedures will be coming out in March. These recent changes will remove the current Appendix 7 checklist contained in the 7210.3.  Also, NATCA and the FAA are developing briefings for field facilities on the new requirements. 

The North Dakota UAS Network is requesting a waiver for Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight operations. If the request is approved, UAS pilots may operate their aircraft without physically seeing the aircraft. The approval of this waiver is a significant step forward in the statewide program. 

NATCA is working with the FAA to update course materials at the Academy for UAS. AJI and NATCA will provide updates for approximately 20 En-Route, Terminal, and Tower classes and ELMs. 

The Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) convened on 24 Feb 2021. The DAC recommended a new tasking, Gender Neutral Language for the Drone Community. The DAC asked NATCA’s very own EVP to co-lead this new tasking. 

Over the next month, there will be numerous SRM panels for UAS On-Airport operations and RC Club LOA requests. NATCA will have local representatives on the panels along with the national representative. 

Upcoming/On-going Activities: 

·      A daily check-in with Program Manager 

·      North Dakota Statewide UAS Network 

·      UASFM AAA Concept Working Group 

·      LAANC AJM/AJT/NATCA Coordination Bi-Weekly Meetings 

·      BVLOS Engagement Team 

·      FAA/NASA Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Airspace Working Group 

·      Section 383 C-UAS Airport Pilot Program Working Group 

·      Bi-Weekly FAA/NASA UAM Working Group 

·      Recreational Flyers Updates 

·      IFATCA RPAS Workgroup 

·      DAC Task Group 9 

·      ATO UTM Workgroup 

·      AUS UAM Workgroup 

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