How to upset an ATCO with a UAV

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A recent report, from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Center, prepared for the FAA, presents an analysis of 220 reports of the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) related to UAVs. The ones filled by Air Traffic Control Operators (ATCOs) are of particular interest as they are crucial players for the integration of UAS in controlled airspaces.

On top of different statistics concerning the events, the report puts forward seven events particularly surprising for ATCOs:

  • An unanticipated appearance of the UAV in the airspace;
  • Difficulties to contact the UAS pilot;
  • The UAV does not comply with pre-coordinated route;
  • The UAV cannot accept (comply with) an instruction issued by the ATCO;
  • The behavior of the UAV is unexpected; and
  • The required actions for the controller are unknown or unclear.

When reading this report, keep in mind that most of these encounters imply military UAS pilots, which explains the high number of remote pilots disregarding ATC instructions.

This type of study is very useful when designing Real Time Simulations with ATCOs in the loop. Indeed, it allows creating worst case scenarios to experiment with ATCOs workload while representing realistic scenarios.

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