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Technological growth has led to the development of aircraft that can fly across the world without the need for a man on board. These aircraft are controlled through the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which could be installed in a ground station or a computer in the aircraft. This paper looks into the current state of security in UAS, and some of the recommendations that could enhance the safety of unmanned aircraft.
Unmanned aircraft systems are designed to facilitate effective control of unmanned aircraft. The growth in technology has led to the development of sophisticated UAS with relatively simple user interfaces, which has led to the ability of different commercial entities to harness the opportunity of using unmanned aircraft to enhance competitiveness. However, there are concerns that the current state of safety in UAS requires the attention of the relevant authorities. There have been many cases of accidents involving unmanned aircraft. UAS developers should be actively involved in promoting the development of innovative systems that will eliminate the current issues.
Technological growth has led to the development of aircraft that can fly across the world without the need for a man on board. These aircraft are controlled through the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which could be installed in a ground station or in a computer in the aircraft. The first unmanned aircraft were developed during the First World War by American engineers, but they lacked the appropriate UAS to enhance the accuracy of the aircraft in serving their purpose (Stanford, 2009).
It is apparent that the unmanned aircraft require the development of software that enables easy controlling from the ground stations and one that enhances safety for other aircraft in the sky. The associated engineers have since developed safety equipment, control software, data links, communication and navigation software, and other components that comprise the modern UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), 2016).
Over the years, many developers of UAS have developed high-tech programs to enhance the reliability and safety of UAS, but the FAA still insists that there should be an enhancement in the safety aspects of the systems.
Current laws dictate that the FAA should only register unmanned aircraft systems that are comprehensively safe regarding their hardware and software components. This implies that the associated developers have to conduct experiments and demonstrations that recurrently prove that the UAS is extremely safe in the busy skies. For instance, in the United States, the airspace is too busy to allow UAS to roam randomly without considering the implications for the safety of other aircraft. It is apparent that unmanned aircraft have been involved in numerous accidents over the past; hence, there is a need for the development of safety standard requirements for the associated aircraft by enhancing the capabilities of UAS developers (Moore, 2015).
Over the years, many fields of science have adopted the use of UAS to conduct studies. The ability of the UAS to eliminate the risks associated with the collection of data in dangerous places has increased the support for UAS by scientists. For instance, the UAS can collect data from a zone associated with bad weather. During natural disasters like tornadoes, volcano eruptions, and fierce hurricanes, unmanned aircraft have the potential to help scientists collect data because they are expendable assets. Additionally, the UAS has been extensively used in the military to enhance spying abilities and eliminating the loss of lives during wars.
Drones are becoming a popular preference in the war against terrorists in different parts of the world, which implies that UAS should continue being developed. Following the current trend in demand for the safest and most efficient UAS, both the public and private sectors have allocated funds to promote the development of the best UAS. For instance, UBC is one of the organizations that have assumed the provision of sponsorship for individuals who portray the talent and high competence in the ability to develop the most sophisticated UAS (We are looking for you, 2016). The organization provides the facilities for young minds to make their innovative ideas in the production of UAS a reality.
As the FAA continues to partner with various industries to promote the enhancement of safety in the use of UAS, the requirements for registration of unmanned aircraft are being intensified. This is particularly because the unmanned aircraft compromise the safety of the skies for manned aircraft. As the FAA continues to give authorization to the use of UAS to commercial entities, security concerns are increasing; hence, there is a need to continue making strict guidelines for the evaluation process, especially where safety is concerned.
Current Safety Status
The integration of UAS into the national and global airspace is currently associated with a series of regulations that are geared toward ensuring that the unmanned aircraft operate under strict control. In the United States, the FAA is charged with the development of regulations to manage the application of UAS. The organization has partnered with four entities to come up with the current guidelines in the use of UAS. These entities include the Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO), the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Office of System Operations and Safety, the Production and Airworthiness Division (PAD), and the Flight Technologies and Procedures Division.
Every unmanned aircraft operating in the airspace must possess a Certificate of Authorization (Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS, 2016). The certificate of authorization is granted after a thorough scrutiny of the technical merits of the associated aircraft is performed. This includes an intense evaluation of the risk management plan associated with the respective aircraft.
According to sections 333 of the FAA, the commercial entities that have authorizations to use UAS are compelled to follow the strict restrictions of applying the new technology. The current rules dictate that UAS owners must fly their aircraft at a given level in the sky, which is determined by the size of the unmanned aircraft. Essentially, the UAS are required to fly away from heliports and airports. The unmanned aircraft must also fly within the heights that facilitate a clear vision for other pilots and maintain the required distance from the manned aircraft (Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS, 2016).
The FAA has also prohibited the use of UAS in the major cities where air traffic is particularly too busy; hence, the introduction of commercial UAS would increase risks to other aircraft. The FAA also blocks any airspace that is considered risky for the introduction of UAS. Any commercial entity that looks to use their UAS in restricted airspace must apply for an authorization certificate for the respective zone.
According to the current rules, the use of UAS can be authorized if the associated unmanned aircraft have met the requirements of the FAA concerning safety and technical handling of the aircraft. The blanket airspace for the UAS has been placed to ensure that the aircraft do not pose a threat to the manned aircraft that might be flying in the same airspace.
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The main goal of the FAA is to promote the use of UAS because of the potential advantages that they have on the economy while ensuring that the introduction of unmanned aircraft is not accompanied by an increase in aircraft accidents. Most of the unmanned aircraft are running on the most recent security systems, but there are still worries that the current systems may not be adequate in eliminating threats to safety in the airspace (Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS, 2016).
Over the recent past, there have been many cases of unmanned aircraft that have gone missing due to technical issues when flying. This trend should compel the FAA to make authorization guidelines that focus on every aspect of the UAS, including the security system, the hardware and software components, and the competence levels of the people who control the unmanned aircraft from the ground.
The Principles of System Safety Engineering in UAS
The current status of UAS development requires engineers to continue developing innovative programs to increase the safety of unmanned aircraft. The principles of system safety engineering dictate that computer systems in various industries should be continually redesigned with software with updated safety capabilities (Saleh, Marais & Favaro, 2014). There are many cases of malfunctioning of unmanned aircraft, which can be traced down to the installation of obsolete software that does not incorporate sufficient levels of security. For instance, with the traditional UAS, the controller has the responsibility to land the unmanned aircraft and control its motion.
There should be a shift in the development of UAS to facilitate a standard where every aircraft has an automated backup system for navigation in case a technical issue paralyzes the control system from the ground. There should be a safety level that responds by landing the aircraft safely when there is a threat to the efficiency of the UAS.
The evaluation process of the safety of the unmanned aircraft systems entails the development of a comprehensive understanding of the risk factors associated with the software that runs the aircraft. Most aircraft have a computer system that facilitates navigation and communication, as well as other specified functions of the crafts. For instance, spy drones have inbuilt computers that facilitate voice recognition and camera manipulation for the people manning them from the ground. Additionally, the aircraft have software that is strictly meant to monitor the risk factors associated with the software on board (Saleh, Marais & Favaro, 2014).
The principles of system safety engineering reveal that there is no single software that does not have risks. This principle is used during the evaluation process of the safety of unmanned aircraft systems.
Essentially, the evaluators always focus on the efficiency of the UAS in eliminating the potential risks. Different designs of unmanned aircraft pose different safety challenges; hence, the associated engineers in the evaluation process must develop reports to reveal the main areas of weakness in the UAS. Engineers are invited to review the performance of the UAS and its associated weaknesses before the development of reports for the FAA and other agencies involved in determining the safety of the aircraft (Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS, 2016).
By treating each UAS as a potential hazard in the airspace, engineers are able to detect the possible risks associated with the respective aircraft and produce propositions to the regulatory agencies. The main goal of the system safety engineering involvement in UAS is to ensure that the authorities regulating the use of UAS are acquainted with comprehensive reports about the risks associated with respective aircraft.
Additionally, the principles of system safety engineering are involved in the development of a multilayered safety system for various designs of unmanned aircraft systems. Engineers involved in the detection of flaws in software and hardware designs have always contributed to the development of solutions for the same (Saleh, Marais & Favaro, 2014). When certain loopholes are sealed in the design of UAS, they enhance the potential of the global engineering fraternity in developing a UAS system with the lowest risk level. Risk communication is important in the enhancement of safety in the airspace, and system safety engineering in the UAS provides the relevant information about the risks associated with different aircraft.
Recommendations to Improve UAS
Current reports reveal that there have been many accidents involving unmanned aircraft (Whitlock, 2014). Most of the accidents are attributed to technical errors in the safety systems of the aircraft (When Drones Fall from the Sky, 2014).
There is a need for companies involved in the development of unmanned aircraft to be compelled to develop products that are equipped with high-performance safety systems. This can be attained through the implementation of system safety engineering in the production process of the unmanned aircraft. The current situation has seen the application of safety system engineering at the application level of the products, which is relatively inefficient in eliminating the associated risks. The FAA and other agencies should be actively involved in the development of regulatory guidelines to the manufacturing process of unmanned aircraft systems to ensure that safety standards are met (Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS, 2016).
The FAA has recently adopted the provision of authorization certificates to commercial entities that are looking to adopt the technology to increase their competitive power in business. This move has led to an increase in the number of unmanned aircraft in the airspace, and this has subsequently translated to an escalation in the number of unmanned aircraft accidents. The FAA should develop a better mechanism to evaluate the safety plans of the respective entities that own UAS. The FAA should also look into establishing the standard weight of unmanned aircraft as part of the enhancement process of safety systems (Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS, 2016).
There should also be strict restrictions on the time of day that different entities should use their UAS. The risks of accidents are highly elevated during the night; hence, there should be no UAS running during the night. Additionally, there should be regular tests for the people who control the UAS to ensure that their competence levels are high enough to limit the chances of controller-related accidents. Operational limitations will ensure that the UAS are only used under the safest conditions.
The concerned authorities should also review the current aircraft requirements. Every operator should be obliged to test their UAS for a given period before embarking on a long mission with the unmanned aircraft. Entities should also ensure that their aircraft are registered with the FAA before using the UAS. Model Aircraft should also be regulated (Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS, 2016). Prior to the testing of aircraft and UAS systems, the associated producers should apply for authorization to ensure that the model aircraft are operated on a safe platform.
The development of UAS over the past decades has led to an increase in the number of unmanned aircraft in the airspace. The safety of the UAS used by various entities has come to question, and there is a need for the development of better systems to enhance safety. The associated authorities should employ the principles of safety system engineering to influence a continuous enhancement of the level of safety of the unmanned aircraft and systems.
Current Status of FAA Guidelines on UAS. (2016). Web.
Moore, J. (2015). Unmanned aircraft encounters increasing. Web.
Saleh, J. H., Marais, K. B., & Favaro, F. M. (2014). System safety principles: A multidisciplinary engineering perspective. Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, 29, 283-294.
Stanford, D. K. (2009). Unmanned aircraft systems. Air & Space Power Journal, 23(2), 25-26.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Frequently Asked Questions. (2016). Web.
We are looking for you. (2016). Web.
When Drones Fall from the Sky. (2014). Web.
Whitlock, C. (2014). Near-collisions between drones, airliners surge, new FAA reports show. Web.