The Future of the Civil UAS market

according to Frost & Sullivan

This article is part of research paper by Marko Lukovic; Principal Consultant; Aerospace, Defence & Security

It is fairly clear that the market potential on the civil side is considerably larger than the military sector in the long term. However, at the moment there are major constraints: lack of a central procurement authority for government applications; absence of legislation and regulations for safe flight in integrated airspace; dispersed and highly heterogeneous potential customer base; to name but a few. In addition, initiatives to promote and facilitate the use of UAVs in non-military applications have been relatively uncoordinated and ad-hoc in nature.

Over the last three years work has began in earnest to kick-start the civil UAV market through a number of initiatives at national and European level and in cooperation with military users. These initiatives primarily aim to deal with the key problem, which is the lack of a framework of rules governing the flight safety on the one hand and insertion of civil and military UAVs in nonsegregated airspace on the other.

A whole range of legislative and regulatory measures need to be designed, mutually agreed and then implemented. These rules will be founded upon certain essential technologies, the most notable being a reliable, light, low-power and cost-effective Sense and Avoid (S&A) system, which would eliminate the possibility of a mid-air collision between aircraft: manned or unmanned.

Both the legislators and industry are striving toward a goal of achieving a capability that would allow UAVs to operate at an Equivalent Level of Safety to manned aircraft. Until this goal is reached, UAVs are required to fly either with a special military or an ad-hoc Civil Aviation Authority exemption, or in segregated airspace. At the moment, rules vary from one country to another, an incoherence which makes things more difficult for manufacturers and operators.

However, some rules have been put in place. On the civil side, airframes with a mass of more than 150 kilos are now required to obtain airworthiness certification at a European level from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). On the military side, the French Military Procurement Agency (DGA) has also developed UAV Systems Airworthiness Requirements for fixed-wing UAVs, which has been adopted as the basis of NATO’s STANAG 4671.

Another important issue is that of radio frequency allocation. Currently, there are no particular areas of the RF spectrum allocated exclusively to UAV operations, which has already caused significant problems in the military use of UAVs. As with airspace exemptions, access to suitable areas of the frequency spectrum is granted, according to availability, by the local and national authority on an ad-hoc basis. The assignment of appropriate slices of the spectrum, for UAV command, control and datalinks, will be an agenda item at the International Telecommunications Union conference that will take place later this year, though it is not yet clear whether it will be resolved fully.

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