There’s been a lot of attention surrounding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the media lately. The excitement surrounding this technology comes as no shock to us; our industry has introduced a new category of vehicle to the skies, and integrating them into existing air traffic has been a predominant challenge for aviation regulators around the globe. However, as UAV technology becomes safer and more reliable, regulators become more inclined to integrate them into the flow of traffic.
If you’ve ever flown to or from a main hub in the United States, you’ve likely noticed the sheer number of people being processed through these airports. This high volume of air traffic creates a challenging environment for the safe introduction of a new category of aerial vehicles.
The good news for the UAV industry is that we live on a pretty large globe, and not all air spaces are quite as crowded as those in the United States. Insitu Pacific, part of the Insitu family, is based out of Australia, a country with a great deal of open airspace and minimal traffic flying through it. With any variety of airspace comes the need for regulation, which brings me to discuss the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australia’s aviation regulator and a fundamental leader in the safe and gradual integration of UAVs into airspace.
CASA has remained exceptionally open-minded toward allowing UAV access to Australia’s airspace. As a regulatory agency, they’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time and they’ve done it without compromising the safety of their skies. Insitu Pacific’s commitment to aviation safety has helped us develop a strong professional relationship with CASA over the years and this collaboration has empowered us to expand into new markets and explore opportunities for commercial and civil applications of our systems.
CASA’s progressive yet authoritative stance has additionally motivated us to create some of the safest and most reliable systems in the industry, for the benefit of our aviation community as well as for the success of our customers’ missions. When it comes to our safety standard, we treat our UAVs as if they are manned aircraft, which has really helped us go above and beyond CASA’s requirements and has been paramount in earning the agency’s trust.
The immense amount of progress made by CASA over the last few years can be broken down into a long path of gradual steps. Our ability to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), in Class C airspace and at night has been achieved through a series of well-considered and regulated trials over a number of years with strong CASA oversight. We have gradually moved from BVLOS day flights in remote locations to day flying in Class C airspace and eventually night flying BVLOS under Class C for wild fire monitoring.
We continually employ robust operational procedures, advanced airspace awareness tools, exhaustive training programs and sound risk assessments to prove our exceptional reliability and air worthiness to CASA and furthermore, to our customers.
As more UAV companies emerge in the industry, we’ve noticed some incongruities in how each business prioritizes the safety and legality of their operations. You’ll see a few businesses like us; we act like an aviation company, we understand aviation standards and we operate professionally. However, you’ll also come across a number of UAV companies that lack a general understanding of the risks associated with UAV operation in mixed-use airspaces. Denying airspace access to unsafe or illegal UAV companies, while still permitting the safe and legal companies to earn airspace access, is a crucial balance for regulators like CASA to achieve, in order for our industry to flourish.
We are proud to work closely with CASA as they enable us and other responsible UAV providers to fly in Australian airspace. It’s exciting to pave the way and set high standards for others in our industry, and actively help to define the path forward with CASA, a global leader in aviation safety.