RPAS/UAV classification and usage

RPAS/UAV classification and usage (suggestion)

  1. Document description and purpose
  2. Classification
  3. Usage
  4. Limitations
  5. Solutions
  6. Conclusions

1. Document description and purpose

The purpose of this document is to highlight the distinction between, usage and responsibilities or differences of RPAS/UAV vehicles and their pilots in the airways or skies as regulated by the SACAA or similar authorities. It is a misconception in the writers view, that these craft should be classified as ‘Manned aircraft’ and the intention of this document is to distinguish between these craft and their usage. The intention of this document is not to outline the general safety rules and regulations of usage of these craft, but to offer an alternative as to the ‘restricted or limited’ usage of these craft and more specifically, those craft used for incidental work or less than a total flying weight of 2.00kg (2000g). Craft such as the DJI Spark (300g), Phantom (1380g) range come to mind although there are may others.

2. Classification

  • UAV: A UAV is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. This is not a manned aircraft and is as the abbreviation suggests. It has it’s own rules and regulations that are independent from fully Manned Aircraft and should thus be treated as such. It is piloted or operated by an operator in very close proximity (500m laterally and 150m vertically) by means of VLOS (Visual Line Of Sight) by use of a Radio transmitter and or software assisted flight. Software Assisted Flight (SAF) are things such as telemetry, orientation, position, GPS assisted location, automated flight modes such as Return To Home, automated video moves and are intended purely as safety/enhancement measures or flight assisted details to help the operator determine the UAV’s position and or direction. These systems are usually found on mobile devices and supplied by the manufacturer of such vehicles as ‘Add on’ software to enhance the purpose of such vehicles. The typical weight of a UAV is between 500g and 10kg
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  • RPAS: A Remotely Piloted Aircraft System.  What is this exactly? The key word is ‘System’ A RPAS is also an unmanned Aircraft but unlike a UAV, is typically such a craft that is purely operated via a 3rdParty Software system (remotely) and not by a pilot with a radio transmitter in the conventional manner, although a radio transmitter may also be used in conjunction with the main software. These are usually very expensive Software systems developed by 3rd parties (not the manufacturer of the RPAS) and are intended to give the RPAS an ‘Automated’ flight characteristic such as automated Crop surveillance, Crop dusting, Parks and recreation surveillance etc. These RPAS are usually bigger and much more expensive than UAV’s and typically have a longer flight time or heavier payload depending on the intended usage. They are specialist machines created for specialist jobs. Their payloads are typically crop dusting, and can be fitted with specialist cameras such as FLIR (night vision) etc. These payloads ore not found on Commercial UAV’s in general. The typical weight of a RPAS is 5.00kg and heavier up to 20.0kg.
    Image result for crop dusting drones


3. Usage

One can consider either Commercial Usage or Usage for Monetary Gain. What is the difference?

  • Commercial usagewould be that of a commercial nature such as surveillance, monitoring crops, farm fields, search and rescue which could be included in this as well. The purpose of this ‘commercial usage’ is intended more for the collection of data of sorts. Counting cattle, or game for instance.  This usage is not intended to be used for public consumption, but more as a data gathering tool for further data analysis . It is conceivable that this usage could be a paid for service or a service undertaken by the land owner themselves. This usually requires more distance or areas to be covered and we will look at that below in Solutions
  • Monetary gainhowever would be flying to capture any visual footage for further use in either websites, online media or video productions. These include weddings, Architecture, building and construction sites, Lodges, Music videos or anywhere where visual media of such a nature would enhance any further product(ion) or sales. These limited and incidental operations are usually limited to very close proximity to the operator in both height and distance. Monetary gain can also be considered as any work carried out for trade or similar benefit.

4. Limitations

  • UAV: A reasonable limitation on this craft could be 500m distance and 150m height. This limitation should cover virtually any scenario where such a vehicle may be used in a safe and responsible manner. Excluding sensitive areas such as busy roads, night time operations, CBD areas and other governmental or national park locations. It is also understood that such UAV can be monitored by the pilot via external screen therefore monitoring its direction and orientation and connected directly to the controller either via a cable or WIFI. This manufacturer supplied software system goes hand in hand with the remote controller as described above and in the writers opinion actually creates a far safer environment and flying experience than looking at a small craft that is 500m away in the distance as such a craft is for all intense and purposes invisible to the naked eye. A monitoring system therefore provides a much needed ‘Eye in the sky’ or ‘In the Pilots Seat’ experience giving the operator far greater control than ever before. Furthermore, these manufacturer supplied monitoring systems provide a lot of safety features such as Return to Home, height and distance limitations and other crucial pilot information(s)
  • RPAS: No limitations as far as distance are concerned as usage may be required over vast areas. Height 150m. The RPAS is exclusively flown via an external monitoring system and automated flight paths although a transmitter radio may also be used in conjunction with the software.

5. Solutions

  • UAVcraft under 2.00kg (2000g) should be given free licence to undertake any work for monetary gain within the limitations as set out above. It is conceivable and advisable that such craft and their pilot should be registered on a national, web based database.  All Work for monetary gain should be logged on a website by means of entering a Date, Time, Location and intended purpose. In this way, all work for monetary gain can be monitored and traced back to the pilot on the day should an incident occur and the pilot was reckless or irresponsible. Furthermore these craft should be software limited in height and distance as outlined above via the supplied software tools. The responsibility of this lies on the operator.
  • UAVcraft over 2.00kg. These very expensive craft (DJI Inspire 3060g) are usually utilized in the film and commercial production industry in locations other than those used by the smaller incidental UAV craft. These are not incidental jobs and great planning is required beforehand including local authority notification etc, as on occasion, roads need to be closed of for this purpose or other permissions granted. Usually, these craft are operated by 2 operators. One flying the craft and the other operating the camera on board. It is not the intention of this document to delve into solutions for this type of craft or their operations.
  • RPAS– Not covered in this document.

6. Conclusions

In essence one can conclude that the introduction and availability as well as their technical prowess, have come a long way since the initial inception of these craft just a few years ago.  Their technical abilities are astounding and the safety and operator adjustable limiting features leaves little room for errors like in the past. Furthermore, they (UAV) are very practical and have opened up a whole industry creating work for millions of people interested in this type of work. It is unfortunate that the governmental institutions have imposed the ludicrous and short minded limitations as they have, without studying or understanding fully the benefits derived from such machines (UAV). The whole concept of classifying these craft (UAV) as Manned aircraft is in the writers mind, a completely ludicrous idea and needs to be (re)addressed for today’s scenarios. The current laws were quickly introduced without any feasibility studies by people that usually have never operated such a craft. This in my opinion is a major oversight and detriment to this technology.