Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


The proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), and in particular small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), has significant operational implications for the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system of the future. Integrating unmanned aircraft safely presents long-standing challenges, especially during the lengthy transition period when unmanned vehicles will be mixed with piloted vehicles. Integration of dissimilar systems is not an easy, straight-forward task and in this case is complicated by the difficulty to truly know what is present in the airspace. Additionally, there are significant technology, security and liability issues that will need resolution to ensure property and life are protected and in loss, indemnified. The future of air traffic will be a fully networked environment, where the absence of participation on the network could connote a potential intruder and threat. This article explores a potential airspace structure, and conceptual air traffic management philosophy of self-separation that is inclusive of all participants. Additionally, the article acknowledges the significant cyber security, technological, societal trust, employment, policy, and liability implications of transition to a fully autonomous air transportation system. Each subject is described at a macro, operations analysis level verses a more detailed systems engineering level. The objective and potential value of such a treatment is to encourage industry dialog about possibilities and more importantly a focus toward workable future air traffic solutions.