The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority is using performance based regulation (PBR) to ensure the rules governing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operators are sufficiently flexible to enable the sector to keep growing, said Mark Wharry, the general aviation and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) safety and oversight manager with the CAA.

PBR will involve the CAA developing a comprehensive risk picture with the organisations it regulates, as well as building its knowledge and data to make sure the regulator targets its oversight and regulatory activities in the areas where it will make the biggest difference.

UAS regulation

Wharry, speaking at the DroneX conference and exhibition at the London Excel centre, said the CAA was “currently in the process of introducing this more formally and more properly to the UAS community. The basic concept of PBR is that we look at the result of following the regulations, not just checking raw compliance at the initial stage.

“We set the performance goals and look at the outcome rather than trying to specify and drive the behaviour that results in that at the end. We don’t want to dictate behaviour.

“We just want to specify what the results of the chosen behaviour you pick should be. Performance based regulation that looks at the safety results of what we put in place gives us that flexibility that’s necessary for the industry to continue to develop.”

‘Aviation stands on the cusp of the next revolution’

His comments came as the chair of the UK CAA, Sir Stephen Hillier, said aviation stands on the cusp of the next revolution.

The regulator is working with the aviation and aerospace industry as well as government to support the safe development and roll-out of sustainable fuels, drones and new types of aircraft, which are poised to play a significant role in UK aviation.

Sir Stephen, speaking at the Global Urban & Advanced Air Summit Asia in Singapore, said: “Aviation now stands on the cusp of its next, and potentially biggest, revolution since the invention of the jet engine. Radically different types of vehicles have the potential to revolutionise the way people move around cities, improve transportation options, and contribute to a more sustainable aviation ecosystem.

“As the UK’s aviation and aerospace regulator, we have an important role in helping enable innovation and those technological advances, while focusing primarily on the safety of those who fly, and those on the ground below.

“We continue to work with other member states and regulators to take on that enormous challenge of regulating for the future in a collaborative way.”

The evolving use of UAS to fly further and beyond operator’s line of sight could also change the way infrastructure inspections take place and goods are delivered. Last year the regulator set out how everyday Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight could happen, and has granted permission for trials to take place.

It recently supported Apian and Skyports in demonstration trials, which involved making time-sensitive medical deliveries for the NHS. The trials improved patient experiences by improving delivery times of critical chemotherapy drugs and the processing time of samples, speeding up diagnosis times.
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