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Avoiding drones

There seems to be more and more drones, and there is no limits to the imagination of what they can be used for (by drone pilots at least). In the near future there will probably be more drones flying around than light aircraft. How to avoid them? what tools to use? ADS-B, FLARM, transponder. IMO it’s difficult enough to spot planes in the air, but drones is even worse, impossible in a practical sense.

EASA has made these regulations. Not exactly easy access

I’m not talking about RC aircraft or drones flown visually in close proximity to the pilot (VLOS), as this is unproblematic. This is only about drones that fly beyond visual range and/or autonomously/pre-programmed. Civilian drones only, as military drones is another matter entirely I think. The military tend to be much more professional about this, and already have certain air spaces in which they can operate and train, and of course they know air rules, regulations and practices.

What triggered me about this is that they are starting a pilot project to deliver blood samples between two hospitals. The distance is 57 NM directly, a bit more following the route. This is to be flown by an aircraft looking drone, 1.5m wing span, and at 400 ft AGL. Out of nowhere this company puts a “heads up” on the club’s face book page, and a reference to a NOTAM that seems to be nonexistent (I can’t find it, but can find several other about drone operation).

The route is this:

I have no clue about drone operations, and start to ask him about how they are going to keep the basic principle of “see and be seen” in G airspace. He simply gives the reference to the EASA reg and say their drone is ARC-b. He also wonders about what to use in the future, ADS-B or FLARM etc. I take a look in that reg, and find this table:

Looking at the ARC-b column is says this:

The expectation is for the applicant’s DAA Plan to
enable the operator to detect approximately 50 %
of all aircraft in the detection volume2.

This is the performance requirement in the
absence of failures and defaults.
It is required that the applicant has awareness of
most of the traffic operating in the area in which
the operator intends to fly, by relying on one or
more of the following:
• Use of (web-based) real time aircraft tracking
services
• Use Low Cost ADS-B In /UAT/FLARM3/Pilot
Aware3
aircraft trackers
• Use of UTM/U-space Dynamic Geofencing4
• Monitoring aeronautical radio communications
(e.g. use of a scanner)5

Looks great, except when realizing what the reality is like:

Web based real time aircraft tracking: Requires ADS-B or Mode S. Requires something to pick up the signals. Nothing flying below 2-3000 ft in that area will be shown on any real-time web based tracking service. No one has ADS-B, some have Mode-S, but it’s no requirement. In fact, there is no requirements for any transponding device whatsoever.

Use Low Cost ADS-B In /UAT/FLARM3/Pilot Aware : Requires the airplane to have ADS-B out or FLARM, which nobody has

Use of UTM/U-space Dynamic Geofencing: Is something that does not exist as of today.

Monitoring aeronautical radio communications (e.g. use of a scanner): Radio is not mandatory in G, and you don’t talk to anyone unless you have to, and you certainly don’t transmit your position periodically just for fun.

The detection volume is defined as:

The detection volume is the volume of airspace (temporal or spatial measurement) which is required to avoid a collision (and remain well clear if required) with manned aircraft. It can be thought of as the last point at which a manned aircraft must be detected, so that the DAA system can performance all the DAA functions. The detection volume in not tied to the sensor(s) Field of View/Field of Regard. The size of the detection volume depends on the aggravated closing speed of traffic that may reasonably be encountered, the time required by the remote pilot to command the avoidance manoeuvre, the time required by the system to respond and the manoeuvrability and performance of the aircraft. The detection volume is proportionally larger than the alerting threshold.

In essence the drone pilot is flying completely blind. There is no way he will detect a single aircraft within his “detection volume”.

I mean, with with these utterly useless regs, and with the corresponding (in)competence of the drone pilots and EASA/local authority, there is only a matter of time before someone will be killed. Drones are bound to pop up to do every conceivable mission, only limited by the infinite imagination of the drone pilots.

The only thing we can do is to mount ADSB-in/out, hook it up to SD, then mount a couple of AK-47 under the wings and kill them before they kill us Joking of course, but there is a lot of truth in it. Someone is bound to be killed with swarms of drones popping up and those regs, and it’s not the drone pilots that will be killed.

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

LeSving wrote:

Looks great, except when realizing what the reality is like:

Web based real time aircraft tracking: Requires ADS-B or Mode S. Requires something to pick up the signals. Nothing flying below 2-3000 ft in that area will be shown on any real-time web based tracking service. No one has ADS-B, some have Mode-S, but it’s no requirement. In fact, there is no requirements for any transponding device whatsoever.

Use Low Cost ADS-B In /UAT/FLARM3/Pilot Aware : Requires the airplane to have ADS-B out or FLARM, which nobody has

Use of UTM/U-space Dynamic Geofencing: Is something that does not exist as of today.

Monitoring aeronautical radio communications (e.g. use of a scanner): Radio is not mandatory in G, and you don’t talk to anyone unless you have to, and you certainly don’t transmit your position periodically just for fun.

As I was reading the table, these were my thoughts exactly (before I got to the part where you wrote it).

There is no likelihood of detecting many aircraft in that airspace. The only thing they have going for them is that there isn’t likely to be many aircraft below 500ft.

EIKH Kilrush

dublinpilot wrote:

The only thing they have going for them is that there isn’t likely to be many aircraft below 500ft.

True, but how unlikely? These people have no clue about GA whatsoever, they could plan their routes right over airstrips, right into training areas etc. The other thing is how good are they at keeping the altitude. To keep at or below 400 feet in hilly terrain, that’s some achievement because that would mean straight up at some places, and straight down.

The whole ting is kind of weird. The operator is supposed to detect only 50%. So if he does plan the route over an unknown (to him) strip with lots of activity. Then at 400 ft AGL, he is only required to detect 50% of the aircraft there. Then the whole principle. Using a real time aircraft tracking service is good enough. FR24 is supposed to be good enough according to the regulations! Everybody knows that he would be lucky to detect 1 out of 100. It’s useless.

This is completely crazy. It would be like we just buzzed through international airports with our eyes glued to FR24 in a pad while the pad is offline.

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

One reasonable way to regulate the use of (non-toy) drones in Class G might be:

1. No drone allowed above 400ft AGL under any circumstances.

2. Generously-sized (e.g. ~4nm radius minimum) drone-prohibited areas around airfields of any sort, including private strips.

EC can’t be a safety solution for blind pilotless aircraft in airspace where see-and-avoid applies.

EGLM & EGTN

LeSving wrote:

FR24 is supposed to be good enough according to the regulations! Everybody knows that he would be lucky to detect 1 out of 100.

I think (perhaps I hope) this is a misunderstanding. Regulation doesn’t say FR24 is good enough. The applicant has to demonstrate that they detect “most of the traffic”. Using FR24 could be part of that demonstration but it still needs to be demonstrated in the specific case.
If you operate e.g. 1000ft above the city center of Frankfurt, FR24 would actually give you a pretty good representation of the traffic situation and would be perfectly fine to use. 400ft above the highlands it is largely useless…

Germany

Graham wrote:

One reasonable way to regulate the use of (non-toy) drones in Class G might be:

Getting into the right direction (and yes, an altitude limit for drones is a reasonable thing). However, one still has to solve the HEMS-challenge.

Plus: a 4 NM drone prohibited area around every airfield will not happen – and is not in the best interest of GA either. Just imagine that automated drone delivery really becomes standard. How will people in the vicinity of airfields react that not only “suffer” from the noise of the GA, but are then also cut off any Amazon delivery? “You can have your Amazon order delivered within 2 hrs if and only if you do not live in a 4NM radius around an airfield – in that case you won’t get it delivered at all but you have to drive to the next major city to pick it up yourself” is not a good advertisement for GA airfields…

Germany

Does anyone really think that amazon drone delivery will be a practical reality any time soon? Just have a wee think about how many packages are sent out by Amazon, where most people live, and how that would translate into drone flights…

skydriller wrote:

Does anyone really think that amazon drone delivery will be a practical reality any time soon?

Yes – but not in urban areas. Where drone delivery will start and possibly be confined to are rural and remote areas. There is a lot going on in the autonomous flight space aimed precisely at these areas.

In the US the next step in BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) ops is remote ID. As it doesn’t affect my own work I’m not too sure where we stand on this right now, but essentially it’s a sort of ADS-B for drones. Drones are increasingly being integrated into the NAS and drone ops are getting progressively easier. Every airport in the US has a grid around it with varying maximum heights for drone ops. If you want to fly below these altitudes you can get an authorization automatically, going into the airspace (say 300 ft in a 200ft grid) requires a bit more effort but is doable.

In general, in the US civilian drones are limited to 400ft AGL with a few exceptions. This effectively creates a 100ft buffer between the 500ft minimum for manned flight and the UAS below. Of course you are perfectly entitled to fly your Cessna (or, more likely, Cub) 50 ft off the ground in some remote(ish) area, but the chances of collision out there are minimal.

Graham wrote:

including private strips

Around here private strips are just a fields of land, nothing on any charts, unless the land owner wants to, which he often do of course. Anywhere and anything (roughly speaking) you can put a plane down to is a “private strip”. In the language of the law, they are called “natural airports”. For helicopters this means everywhere, and this is rather literally.

We have never had any problems with drones or RC. They co-exist happily on many (most) of these private strips and airfields, and has done so as long as I can remember, which is half a century But these beyond visual range drones, flying long distances, by people clueless of GA, and referring to that EASA document, is something very different.

400 ft max will of course reduce the risk of crashing into an airplane considerably, but it will never make it zero. In case the route goes straight over a private strip (nowhere to be found in any charts), it will only make it worse. The rule in GA is “see and be seen” – by all parties involved. Personally I have no objections extending this to some gadgets (ADSB/FLARM for instance), but it must be something that works in practice, at least 99% of the time (or better than eyeballs and radio), and every__thing__ flying must be able to do the proper avoidance maneuvers. Obviously the technology exists, but equally obviously everybody must have it, and today virtually nobody has it, not even the drones. The drones are flying nonetheless though.

Malibuflyer wrote:

I think (perhaps I hope) this is a misunderstanding

Could be, I haven’t studied that document, only those pages. On the face of it, it looks rather theoretical the whole thing, with nothing that actually works.

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

skydriller wrote:

Does anyone really think that amazon drone delivery will be a practical reality any time soon? Just have a wee think about how many packages are sent out by Amazon, where most people live, and how that would translate into drone flights…

No.

Drone companies are searching for a problem that matches their solution. I’m sure they will find one eventually, but I don’t think it’s going to be delivering anything – apart perhaps from some very particular circumstances and not at a consumer level.

EGLM & EGTN
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