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Royal Mail to expand drone deliveries with 50 new routes

If the UK’s postal service is planning to deploy hundreds of new unmanned aeroplanes on fifty new routes, should the CAA move beyond its current default “segregated airspace” policy to one which uses current technology to allow suitably-equipped UAVs and GA to share airspace reasonably safely?

http://digitaleditions.telegraph.co.uk/data/968/reader/reader.html?social#!preferred/0/package/968/pub/968/page/105/article/302157

Would you, for instance, be willing to share airspace with Mode S and ADS-B equipped UAVs?

How might the risk of collision in such shared airspace compare with other risks managed and accepted by GA?

Last Edited by Jacko at 12 May 14:19
Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

Jacko wrote:

Would you, for instance, be willing to share airspace with Mode S and ADS-B equipped UAVs?

Sure! The UAV should “obviously” have ADS-B In and use that information for collision avoidance; do they also coordinate with the airspace controller so that the controller can apply the separation he is bound to provide?

ELLX

do they also coordinate with the airspace controller so that the controller can apply the separation he is bound to provide?

Currently, no.

The UK CAA’s current policy (possibly following EASA rules?) is a dumb “sledgehammer” approach of excluding all other aircraft from airspace in which UAVs are permitted to operate. These GA exclusion zones sometimes extend to several tens or hundreds of cubic kilometres of lower airspace.

Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

Well, let’s say if I’m flying IFR in class A/B/C, I don’t expect to have to ensure non-collision with drones, I expect “the system” to ensure that.

I would have been willing to consider drones as a kind of “VFR”, if they radiate ADS-B OUT on Mode S ES PLUS they use ADS-B IN to do standard avoidance (turn to avoid right IIRC, and right of way from the right) and thus use my ADS-B IN TAS to avoid them based on the same standard avoidance that they follow (turn right and right of way from the right). NOT IF THEY JUST FLY STRAIGHT AHEAD expecting me to do all the avoidance work.

I would have been willing, because the rules of the air say manned aircraft have right of way anyway. Completely justified if they are quadcopters, they are more manoeuvrable than me. So the current situation is they have to avoid me. Making their flying zone a TMZ so that they can avoid seems sensible to me.

I would be open to a change of the rules of the air with more equality between manned and unmanned:

  • Quadcopters give way to fixed wing
  • Between fixed wings, apply right of way from the right and turn right to avoid.
ELLX

The Post Office drones are fixed wing, as were the medical drones previously trialled.
The PO use makes sense in remote areas. Whether it makes economic sense will soon be known.

Maoraigh
EGPE, United Kingdom

The Post Office drones are fixed wing,

How can one deliver stuff to a house with a FW device?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

How can one deliver stuff to a house with a FW device?

One can’t (unless VTOL) but that’s not the point of these ones.

I think avoidance in VFR should be wholly up to drones. Realistically it’s already hard enough to see a manned aircraft on a collision course, and a drone may be much smaller. I wouldn’t mind them using much smaller separations than current IFR flight separations (including between drones and manned aircraft) because ultimately a computerised aircraft should be able to perform much more reliably than a manned one. Secondly, there are situations e.g. a manned aircraft flying VFR immediately adjacent to cloud, where ‘TCAS’ style avoidance might push a manned VFR aircraft into danger. I don’t see a way to resolve this, other than assuming that the drone has to take any avoiding action required. Thirdly, VFR in less than ideal weather and complex airspace is hard work already and if you were forced to change course frequently, it could increase the workload a great deal. A computer should be able to compensate on the fly.

It would take considerable work to get a transponder on my aircraft (no electrical system) but I would probably accept it as a necessary evil in order to retain access to airspace. The question would be more one of reliability and certification. If drones ultimately become as common as delivery vans, then the ‘big sky’ model of collision avoidance that currently keeps us safe, will break down. An electrical failure or loose antenna connection that led to a transponder failure would lead to a very real risk of mid-air collision, rather than marginally increasing the risk as is presently the case.

I think realistically VFR drones will need some form of see-and-avoid to avoid transponders as the only tool for collision avoidance. Otherwise we may end up with gold-plated requirements (a multi kg £20K system in a £6K aircraft or £1K hang glider)?

Last Edited by kwlf at 15 May 10:40

@kwif 100% agree with you. Yesterday I went with another pilot on the short hop LFFK to St Pierre D’Oleron LFDP. Passing through La Rochelle CAS there was a lot of traffic especially from crossing the mainland coast to the coast of the Island of Oleron. Visibility was pretty good although there was the typical heat haze we get here regularly 26°C at ground level. The boats below were clear as a bell but despite being warned of traffic several times in 11 O’clock, 2O’clock, passing left to right, approaching opposite direction, 700ft above 400ft below, our eyes were on stalks as you might imagine, yet we saw not even one of these aircraft. I find that quite disconcerting, especially if you would be looking for a drone. At least in the case of another aircraft they too will have been warned by ATC to keep a lookout.

France

Jacko wrote:

excluding all other aircraft from airspace in which UAVs are permitted to operate

Been warning of this turn of events for years… can’t wait for people carrying drones to start buzzing around. And the military also grab more and more airspace for their own drone requirements.
As free (free?) airspace will vanish bite after bite, the losers will be the VFR side of GA. Such a pity…

Dan
- ain't the Destination, but the Jour...
LSZF, Switzerland

I have asked this before… why can’t drones fly below say 300ft which would separate them effectively from powered GA, except in terminal areas where the drones would not be allowed to fly?

There is no technology in existence which would enable a small drone to reliably detect a light aircraft visually. Even humans can’t do it, even when you have an active TAS (TCAS1) which tells you where to look, and the human eye resolves > 100 megapixels in the centre. Maybe in the thermal spectrum?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
13 Posts
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