Industry News

ISO approved first international standards for drones

Dec 10, 2019 U-Space, Drones

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) recently approved the new international safety and quality standards for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The new standards, a result of a 12-month consultation with drone professionals, academics, businesses and the general public, are set to have a massive impact on the future growth of the drone industry throughout the world.

elia flight 1

“Drones are a transformative global phenomenon, offering an unprecedented economic opportunity for those businesses and countries with the foresight to embrace this technology,” said Robert Garbett, convener of the ISO Working Group responsible for Global Air Drone Operational Standards.

Garbett is also chairman of the BSI Committee for UK Drone Standards and founder of Drone Major Group, the world’s first global drone consultancy.

“My own conversations with government, businesses and other stakeholders have shown that the new standards will be enthusiastically welcomed and will empower organisations to discover how they can use drone technology to enhance their competitive position, adding value and creating growth and jobs,” he said.

The approval of the ISO standards for (aerial) drones came after four years of collaboration involving ISO, BSI and other national standards bodies from all over the world, reinforced through expert input from a wide range of industry and public sector stakeholders.

It represents enormous progress in the standardization of the global drone industry and is of particular significance in addressing the operational requirements of the more recognized and prevalent drones, also known as UAS.

The new standards include protocols on quality, safety, security and overall “etiquette” for the operation of commercial air drones, which will help shape future regulation and legislation. It is the first in a series of emerging standards for drones, with others due to address General Specifications, Product Manufacture and Maintenance, Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) and Testing Procedures.

The Product Manufacture standards for UAS, which are due to be published next year, will combine with the operational standards already published to establish a full-airworthiness suite of standards for UAS.

“The standards will deliver a new confidence among investors in the safety, security and compliance of commercial drone operations, which together with the Product Manufacture and Maintenance Standards, is expected in turn to facilitate a massive expansion in the availability and use of drone technology in the years to come,” said Garbett.

Drone industry gears up for massive growth

A number of recent reports have attempted to forecast the global economic impact of drones.

In its report “Drones: Reporting for Work, Goldman Sachs estimated that the size of the global drone industry will reach US$100 billion by 2020.

These predictions relate solely to aerial drones, demonstrating that the economic benefits offered by drone technology are vast, with growth expected to accelerate across surface, underwater, air & space, as well as emerging hybrid drone applications.

Drones are already providing solutions to some of the most pressing economic, environmental and productivity challenges faced by governments and industries throughout the world. Drones are used for the inspection of pylons and power lines, surveying property, monitoring oil spills and other, often dangerous tasks, saving lives through a reduction in accidents while also reducing pollution in our skies. 

A few months ago, the Belgian drone industry for instance received a significant boost with the release of Droneguide PRO. The application enables the safe integration of drones into the airspace and automates the flight approval process.

Powered by Unifly’s technology, Droneguide PRO includes features such as registration, geo-awareness, dynamic airspace management, flight planning, strategic deconfliction and multi-level flight approval processes – available to drone operators as well as national and local authorities.

As a result, the cumbersome paperwork and administrative delay for professional drone operators are eliminated, providing drone operators with increased operational efficiency.

The approval of the new ISO standards is an important first step – part of a wider deliverable by ISO, which is expected to trigger rapid acceleration in the use of drones by organizations keen to reap the rewards of this transformative technology, against a background of reassurance on safety and security within a new framework of approved regulatory compliance.

New applications for drones are being developed and tested on a daily basis. The work that was done for the SAFIR project is testament to this.

Video courtesy of Port of Antwerp

SAFIR stands for ‘Safe and Flexible Integration of Initial U-space Services in a Real Environment and is a European U-space research project that focused on live demonstrations of industrial and commercial drone operations.

Those operations included parcel delivery, surveillance flights (including container terminal inspection and oil spill inspection at an operational Port of Antwerp), medical inter-hospital transport, high voltage line mapping and pylon inspection. The demonstrations took place in the City and Port of Antwerp, in the vicinity of Antwerp International Airport, with both the port and the airport remaining operational during the demonstrations.

Revolutionary approaches are emerging for freight and passenger transportation as well, with drones providing a cost-effective and environmentally responsible alternative to traditional methods, relieving the burden on our already stretched urban road networks.

The Volocopter flight earlier this year over Singapore’s Marina Bay was an important milestone in the development of Urban Air Mobility.

Volocopter flying over Marina Bay, integrated into Unifly's UTM platformVolocopter flying over Marina Bay, Singapore - integrated into Unifly's Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform

Further applications in the agricultural, maritime, construction and energy sectors among others, are already transforming businesses, with virtually all industries and business sectors set to benefit from the Standard-led adoption of rapidly evolving drone technology.

Air safety is paramount

A key attribute of the ISO standards for air drones is their focus on air safety, which is at the forefront of public attention in connection with airports and other sensitive locations.

The new standards promote an “etiquette” for drone use that reinforces compliance towards no-fly zones, local regulation, flight log protocols, maintenance, training and flight planning documentation.

Social responsibility is also at the heart of the standards, which strengthens the responsible use of a technology that aims to improve and not disrupt everyday life.

The effectiveness of the standards in improving air safety will be further strengthened by the continuing rapid development of geo-fencing and counter-drone technology, providing frontline protection against rogue drone operators.

Privacy and data protection

The new standards also seek to address public concerns surrounding privacy and data protection, demanding that operators must have appropriate systems to handle data alongside communications and control planning when flying.

The hardware and software of all related operating equipment must also be kept up to date. Significantly, the fail-safe of human intervention is required for all drone flights, including autonomous operations, ensuring that drone operators are held accountable.

Exciting times ahead

Few technologies inspire as much excitement as drones do. Unmanned air travel ignites the imagination of people the world over; from ideas such as drones delivering packages or medical goods, to the transportation of people by drone. The prospects for commercial and industrial drone applications are virtually limitless.

World leading innovations that support the drone industry, such as Unifly's Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform, along with developing standardizations and regulations, ensure the drone industry is set to boom and reach its highly rated potential.



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