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UAS Technology Could Make Manned Aviation Safer


UAS technology could one day be embedded into existing architectures used in manned aviation in order to enhance safety, according to Simon Jewell, Chairman of the ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment) Steering Board.

As with any disruptive technology, UAS technology presents a “complex set of possibilities”, said Mr. Jewell, including opportunities for heavy-lift capability aircraft engaging in air cargo and freight operations flying at a slower pace, allowing for much more economic fuel-consumption.

However, the major barrier to the development of widespread commercial UAS use in non-segregated airspace – the “conundrum” as Mr. Jewell called it – is that regulators are unable to write regulations without products to test and verify, while developers won’t build those products because of the high level of risk involved given that they don’t know what future regulatory standards will be.

Mr. Jewell told delegates the solution to this is a “systems-based approach”; one that looks at all the problem “from the insurance side, the airspace use side, the ground handling side, the air traffic side and all of the other components for safe operation” in order to ensure that UASs are both safe to fly and can be flown safely.

He said that existing UAS regulation in the UK is “so restrictive that you cannot operate in the way that perhaps we would wish to do in the future”, but added that one of the core aims of the ASTREA programme is to support the development of a new regulatory framework.

The programme – which has a further 42 months to run – also intends to develop and demonstrate the key technologies and operating procedures required to open up the airspace and for this new class of operation. Some of these include robust, secure, and timely communications; the interaction between the vehicle, the ground, and the air traffic management; transparency of good airmanship; and the need to be able to sense other users.

Watch Mr Jewell’s full presentation delivered at Marsh’s recent European Aerospace Risk Management Seminar (EARMS)*.

Read Marsh’s latest insight paper Dawning of the Drones: The Evolving Risk of Unmanned Aerial Systems to find out more about this rapidly evolving sector and its insurance implications.

* EARMS was made possible by the generosity of our sponsors:

  • Platinum sponsors – Allianz and Global Aerospace.
  • Gold sponsors – ACE, AIG, Altitude, AXIS, BRIT, and Holman Fenwick Willan.
  • Silver sponsors – Apollo, Argo, HISCOX, Interhannover, Munich Re, Starr, and XL Catlin.