ICAO is in a research and information gathering stage so they can better understand UAS, how it should be managed and ultimately integrated into international airspace. “The safe integration of UAS [RPAS] into non-segregated airspace is a long-term activity with many stakeholders adding their expertise on such diverse topics as licensing and medical qualification of remote pilots, technologies for detect and avoid systems, frequency spectrum, separation standards from other aircraft and development of a robust regulatory framework”. 

An example of ICAO’s intent to research Unmanned Aviation Systems came in 2013, during the 38th Session of the assembly, when the Republic of Korea presented working paper, which stated that there was a need for further legal research and examination of remotely piloted aircraft liability matters in light of the increasing use of UAS. Additionally, they proposed the organization of a study group similar to the Unmanned Aircraft System Study Group (UASSG), to examine and conduct legal research on liability issues related to UAS

While several delegations expressed their support for the Republic of Korea’s proposal there was one delegation who dissented, noting that A38-WP/262 did not adequately establish the need for new law relative to Unmanned Aviation Systems that two recent Conventions adopted by ICAO in 2009 already address the liability concerns raised in Republic of Korea’s paper. The concerns raised by the dissenting delegation were shared by a number of other delegations who then questions the creation of a study group as either unnecessary or premature. Another delegation then seconded this approach and decided that further preliminary research was needed to establish the need for and possible program of a prospective study group.

A brief recap of the situation with  the Republic of Korea’s working paper A38-WP/391, was they proposed the organization of a study group to conduct legal research on Unmanned Aircraft System’s liability, discussion was held regarding the proposal, various delegations expressed different levels of support, “further preliminary research was needed to establish the need for and possible program of a prospective study group”. The Commission further agreed that this topic should be added as a new item on the Work Program of the Legal Committee. In essence the “can was kicked down the road”. It was decided they need more time to decide if they should create a study group. These are the type of scenarios that will kill the international Unmanned Aviation Systems from reaching its potential.  

As noted in the recently published Manual on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (MRPAS), “remotely piloted aircraft systems are a new component of the civil aviation system… Which the International Civil Aviation Organization, States and the industry are working to understand, define and ultimately integrate.” The MRPAS also noted that, “civil aviation has, to this point, been based on the notion of a pilot operating the aircraft from within the aircraft itself and more often than not with passengers on board.” I agree with this statement 100% that the regulations put in place make sense for manned aircraft but not cutting edge technology that has never been considered before. The groundwork already provided by ICAO is a great platform for starting a new way of handling remotely piloted aircraft.

ICAO’S Mission and Unmanned Aircraft Systems–  

ICAO is aware of the coming changes to aircraft and has started preparing committees and have drafted a Manual to address the coming technology. The RPAS panel officially formalized its efforts in November 2014 and recently created a manual on remotely piloted aircraft systems but it has nevertheless struggled to keep pace with the technological advancements and demands of this extending sector of the aviation industry. The newly created manual states, “most importantly, introduction of RPAS into non-segregated airspace should in no way increase safety risks to manned aircraft.” Id.

Which leads the RPAS, reinforced this when he expressed the need for a new way of addressing development and cooperation, including the lessons learned from Civil Aviation. Mr. Creamer explained that “relatively simple standards” had taken the ICAO “25 years to develop and implement across the globe,” adding that “we don’t have that kind of time with RPAS because the technology simply has outpaced us.” In the 10-year period since the present and foreseen situations and potential were first broached and discussed at an international level, member states have continued to apply differing requirements and obligations on operators.

ICAO’s Modification of Some Articles to the Chicago Convention

Some of the Articles of the Chicago Convention when applied to traditional manned aircraft give us a standard of uniformity but some of those same requirements applied to RPA can lead to absurd results. For instance, Article 20 of the Chicago Convention, requires any aircraft engaged in international navigation to bear its appropriate nationality and registration marks. Acknowledging that remotely piloted aircraft sizes and designs can differ significantly from those of current manned aircraft, standards have been adopted in Annex 7 aircraft nationality and registration marks, to accommodate these differences. 

If aircraft do not possess the components mentioned in Annex 7, or the parts are not of sufficient size to accommodate the marks described in 5:1.1, 5:2.1 or 5:3.2, the state of registry shall determine the location and measurement of nationality or common marks and registration marks, taking account of the need for the aircraft to be identified readily. ICAO requires all civilian aircraft to have an identification plate near the main entrance to the fuselage. However, many remotely piloted aircraft may not have a main entrance to the fuselage. Therefore, Annex 7 mandates that the State of Registry determine the appropriate location to secure the identification plate: a) in a prominent position near the main entrance or compartment; or b) affixed conspicuously to the exterior of the aircraft if there is no main entrance or compartment.

The Unmanned Aviation Systems Law Center, LLC helps organizations maintain regulatory compliance with all FAA rules and regulations. We can be contacted at 623-252-6884 or message us HERE.