Our project member EuroUSC-Italia has just published an article for The Aviation & Space Journal, with the title “Web based tools facilitating drone operations in the Specific category”. The article summarises the European regulations on civil drone operations, based on a performance approach, and its required risk assessment.
EuroUSC-Italia is a leading consultancy in drone regulations and safety, member of the JARUS working group that developed SORA. Filippo Tomasello, Matteo Natale and Marilea Laviola penned the article. First, they provided a technical description of the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) methodology recommended by EASA for UAS operations in the Specific category. Then, they analysed two web-based tools which facilitate the risk assessment and the mitigations implementation: SAMWISE and the AW-Drones Repository (alias “metastandard”).
The SAMWISE Tool
A Safety risk assessment is always necessary in the Specific category. In this sense, SORA has been indicated as “a tailoring guide that allows a UAS operator to find a best fit mitigation means, and hence reduce the risk to an acceptable level”. Nevertheless, the methodology often proves difficult to apply by UAS operators, requiring several days to manually gather the necessary information. In addition, evaluation by national CAAs is expected to require more and more time in the future, as the number of daily applications increases. Standard Scenarios and Pre/Defined Risk Assessments (PDRA) will certainly alleviate the workload, but not eliminate it. Building on these considerations, EuroUSC-Italia developed a dedicated web-based tool: SAMWISE.
How SAMWISE works
SAMWISE is an online tool based on the JARUS SORA 2.0 methodology. SAMWISE does not replace a formal risk analysis, but facilitates the application of the SORA methodology.
Initially, SAMWISE performs a quick preliminary feasibility analysis. After that, according to the SORA methodology, it assesses the operational scenario’s intrinsic risk, also offering a list of mitigations that the operator may wish to implement. Then, in accordance to the final computed level of risk (SAIL in SORA terms), SAMWISE presents the list of requirements with which the operator must comply to in order to ensure the safe execution of the UAS operation. Finally, it gathers all the information and material required to demonstrate compliance to the established requirements and prepares the formal application to be submitted to the authority.
In other words, SAMWISE supports the preparation of the full safety assessment, providing step by step guidance through the process. Using SAMWISE is time saving and cost effective. It reduces the time required to perform a complete risk assessment, and at CAA level can automatise the evaluation process. Also, SAMWISE reduces the resources required to prepare a safety assessment.
The AW-Drones Metastandard
However, SAMWISE alone is still not enough. Demanding operations in the Specific category require, in fact, the operator to ensure high levels of integrity. Normally, these require the application of a specific consensus-based industry standard. Thus, UAS operators need to identify industry-recognised standards to comply with.
Unfortunately, the lack of clear guidance on which technical standards the UAS operator should use makes it difficult to identify the standards applicable to a given mitigation. In addition, many standards exist for the UAS domain, but it is not clear which ones the authority recognises.
In this regard, the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme funded AW-Drones to facilitate its ongoing rulemaking process for civilian drone operations. AW-Drones is proposing and validating a set of technical standards to comply with existing regulations for drone operations. In the end, the project will facilitate the implementation of a coherent and interoperable standardisation framework.
In 2019, AW-Drones focused on standards suitable to demonstrate compliance to the requirements set out in the SORA methodology. During 2020, the project is focusing on harmonising the standards related to the requirements set by the UAS Traffic Management (UTM or U-Space) perspective. In particular, AW-Drones is analysing the mitigation strategies proposed by SORA and the availabilit of related supporting standards.
The AW-Drones Open Repository
Ultimately, AW-Drones will determine which standards constitute Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) to one or more OSOs/mitigations. In this sense, it will effectively aid UAS operators by identifying all the standards applicable to every SORA requirement. To facilitate this process, an online Open Repository will provide information about the standards applicable to a given mitigation deriving from the SORA methodology. For this reason, it is defined as “metastandard”.
AW-Drones represents a great means to clarify the current standardisation landscape and, consequently, fosters the growth of safe drone usage. In fact, it coordinates and accelerates the identification of standards and conformity assessment programs needed to facilitate the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the airspace. The metastandard gives much clearer guidelines and speeds up the application and authorisation process with the authority. Therefore, it makes the certification process for both small and large operators easier and more efficient.
A fruitful synergy
The path towards the harmonisation of regulations in the UAS sector has just started. In the EU, a comprehensive, logic and complete performance-based and risk-based regulatory framework is emerging. Its main objective is to ensure the safety of drone operations through common European rules. The Commission Delegated Regulation 2019/9452 and the Implementing Regulation 2019/9473 represent a strong acceleration in this process.
Nevertheless, these rules might not be effectively applied if not supported by accepted and safe references or patterns for guidance. The AW-Drones Repository and SAMWISE seem to provide a significant break-through. Both tools are in fact synergistic, contributing to the collection of best practices to drastically reduce risks. UAS operators may use SAMWISE in conjunction with the AW-Drones “metastandard”. The former will speed up the execution of the SORA process, while the latter will support the identification of the consensus-based industry standards necessary to implement the mitigations identified by the SORA methodology.