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Contributing to a well-reasoned set of Airworthiness Standards for mass-market drones

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AW-Drones (Contributing to a well-reasoned set of Airworthiness Standards for mass-market drones)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

The lack of harmonised standards is holding back the development of drone-related business, both at a global level and in Europe. Several studies and surveys (as for instance the European Drones Outlook Study, issued by SESAR) identify a reliable regulatory and standardisation framework as one of the main potential boosters for the drone business. Therefore, to foster the growth of safe drone usage, there is a need to implement coherent and interoperable global standards for drones in the EU.
AW-Drones is a 36 months Coordination and Support Action aiming at supporting the on-going EU regulatory process for the definition of technical rules, standards and procedures for civilian drones to enable safe, environmentally sound and reliable operations in the EU. This objective is met through four main strands of activity, here recalled to describe and motivate the structure and organization of the project:
• Collect information on on-going and planned work with regards to technical rules, procedures and standards developed for mass-market drones worldwide;
• Carry out a critical assessment/benchmarking of all collected data to identify best practices, gaps and bottlenecks;
• Propose and validate a well-reasoned set of technical standards for each category of drone operations;
• Engage with key stakeholders and end-users, i.e. representatives of the whole drone value chain.
The assessment methodology was one of the main outcomes of reporting period 1, where it was developed and then validated with external stakeholders (workshops with EASA and validation with external stakeholders during the first project workshop). The methodology enables the identification of technical standards (and supporting rules and procedures) with the highest ranking (best practices) as well as the identification of gaps and bottlenecks to ensure safe drone operations.

The collection and categorisation of standards provide the “mapping” of each identified standard to each regulatory requirement.
The starting point for the collection of data has been the EUSCG Rolling Development Plan, then complemented by additional data (e.g. the ANSI roadmap and own research).
The “Collection of standards” is published once a year. The first iteration focused on standards potentially supporting the compliance with requirements set in SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment). SORA, officially recommended by EASA as AMC to Article 11 of EU Regulation 947/2019, currently lacks clear guidance on technical standards that are suitable for UAS operations.

The methodology defines two cases for the mapping:
• CASE 1: 1 or more standards are potentially suitable to comply with a given requirement;
• CASE 2: no standard fully covers a given requirement, thus a gap is identified.
For each SORA requirement the assessment presents:
• A list of standards covering it in part or fully, with a global score (according to the methodology).
• A list of gaps (aspects not adequately covered by existing standards). Gaps are also given a score.
• Recommendations and strategies to fill the identified gaps based on their score.
The assessment was carried out for all the SORA requirements, up to SAIL IV operations, that is where applications are mostly expected in the near future.

The 2nd iteration of standards collection focuses on U-Space standards and is currently under refinement.

AW-Drones aims at involving external experts and stakeholders, including among the others DG-MOVE, EASA and EUSCG (European UAS Standards Coordination Group).
In addition to the meetings with EASA, the 1st AW-Drones workshop with external stakeholders has been held in EUROCONTROL (https://www.aw-drones.eu/2019/aw-drones-1st-workshop/).
The project also constituted an Advisory Board (AB), composed of experts in the field of drone operations, regulation, airworthiness and standard development. The AB takes part in the project workshops and supports the consortium on specific topics.
AW-Drones periodically presents its findings at EUSCG (European UAS Standards Coordination Group) and JARUS meetings (https://www.aw-drones.eu/2019/aw-drones-jarus-plenary-meeting/).
In 2019, AW-Drones took part in the Amsterdam Drone Week and participated in the EASA High-Level Conference on Drones (https://www.aw-drones.eu/2019/amsterdam-drone-week/).
The project has been also presented to events organised by ICAO, EATEO (European Association of Aviation Training and Educational Organisations).

The AW-Drones open repository (draft version: http://drones.ortelio.co.uk) is the online point of access to relevant information about:
- rules, procedures and technical standards for drones;
- best practices, gaps and bottlenecks;
- technical standards for each category of drone operations.
Its main objective is to support EASA and the EC in their rulemaking process for the definition of rules, technical standards and procedures for civilian drones. The mid-term aim of the open repository is to become a relevant drone-focused informative tool where experts can easily identify relevant information and contribute to the extension of the database. During Reporting Period 1 an extensive collection of requirements have been carried out by the consortium, then followed by the development and release the open repository 1.0.

The AW-Drones website (https://www.aw-drones.eu) the main dissemination channel of the project. AW-Drones uses also social networks (Twitter and LinkedIn) in order to enlarge its group of followers and ensure broader dissemination of its findings and results.
The impacts of AW-Drones identified so far are the following ones:
- Give support to the on-going EU regulatory process for technical rules, standards and procedures for drones;
- Enable safe, environmentally sound and reliable operations in Europe by providing a clear landscape of technical and operational standards for drones: the proposed set of standards resulting from the activities are expected to foster the development of sustainable operations, providing the technical grounds on which drone manufacturers should base their developments.
- Generate additional leverage for Europe in the international negotiations for global rules and standards: the knowledge produced by AW-Drones will be shared with EASA, EU National CAAs and standardization bodies (e.g. EUROCAE) and will contribute to their awareness of the current global drones’ rulemaking and standardization state-of-the-art;
- Increase the acceptance of EU standards in the global drone product and service marketplace, generating economies of scale towards reducing costs whilst de-risking customer choice: AW-Drones is meant to foster and support the development and adoption of a common European set of rules for mass-market drones. This approach will contribute to the growth of a stronger and more acknowledged mass-market drone community, with common safety, operational and environmental standards of excellence;
- Offer better opportunities for European drone designers, manufacturers and operators in accessing global markets: a stable and clear regulatory approach is a key enabler for the development of a globally competitive drones value-chain in Europe. The contribution of AW-Drones to the establishment of a set of standards that are globally harmonized and recognized will contribute to make Europe the leading area in this sector, with consequent competitive advantages for European drone manufacturers and operators.