Enabling Science use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Arctic Environmental Monitoring.
la Cour-Harbo, A.
AMAP , Environmental monitoring , Unmanned aircraft
"The Arctic is a critically important environment with a strong influence on global climate and is a significant source of oceanic primary production. Scientists, researchers and governments have monitored the Arctic environment for decades by the use of aircraft, satellites and in situ measurements at the surface. However, collecting the necessary data for proper analysis of the changes and conditions in the Arctic has been extremely difficult, presenting technological, environmental and human challenges that call for innovative approaches to address and overcome the many barriers that the region presents. Foremost being remoteness, severe weather, and lack of infrastructure to support science missions. A potential solution to many of those problems is the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), also known as unmanned aircraft systems, or ‘UAS’. The use of UAS for environmental research in the Arctic began in 1999 with research conducted by the University of Colorado and funded by the National Science Foundation to deploy small, low altitude, long endurance UAS from Barrow, Alaska. The number of science missions in the Arctic that have used UAS has gradually increased over the ensuing eleven years. In 2010/11, Arctic UAS missions were performed in the United States, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, and Russia by at least five different operators of scientific UAS. AMAP first addressed the issue of using unmanned aircraft to examine the significant data gaps present in Arctic studies, as well as their potential for helping fill these gaps, in spring 2008 at a meeting of concerned Arctic scientists in Stockholm. While the group strongly recommended the benefits of UAS, it acknowledged that the technology is not without challenges, and that understanding these challenges is necessary to realize their potential as an environmental monitoring tool. One of the most significant challenges is gaining access to airspace in order to fly the science missions. The AMAP UAS Expert Group was assembled specifically to study the research needs in the Arctic and to explore the opportunities for conducting a significant portion of that research using UAS. Management and control of the Arctic airspace is conducted by eight different nations pursuant to Supplemental Agreements to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, under the jurisdiction of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Each member State that provides air traffic services in their respective areas of influence in the Arctic is permitted to apply their own domestic civil aviation regulations in international airspace, to the extent that their regulations do not conflict with the Convention and its annexes and supplements. For researchers seeking access to the Arctic Flight Information Regions (FIRs), the task of determining what the rules for that access may be is a daunting one, since the rules may and do change as an aircraft passes from one FIR into the next. Because the research being conducted has a global reach and is for the benefit of all mankind, the impetus for a harmonized approach to gaining access to the Arctic for non commercial and non-military reasons is great. AMAP’s intent is to apprise participating member States and the research community of the emerging ICAO perspective on the integration of UAS into non segregated international airspace, domestic airspace and at aerodromes, to consider the fundamental differences from manned aviation that such integration will involve, and to encourage States to help with the development of ICAO UAS policy as well as their own UAS regulations by providing information on their experiences associated with these aircraft. To facilitate ongoing discussions of UAS integration and use in the Arctic, AMAP has compiled a summary of the aviation regulations of the eight member States as they may pertain to UAS operations; has proposed an outline set of Best Practices for the safe conduct of those operations, as well as a guideline for presenting a Safety Case to the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) of the respective States to support permissions to operate in the Arctic; has described the technical and scientific capabilities of UAS; and, has outlined and proposed a strategy for UAS proponents and CAAs for the safe integration of UAS into the Arctic airspace. The report concludes with three recommendations on future activities and projected deliverables for AMAP and the UAS Expert Group. The recommendations address policy considerations at the international level, crossborder agreements and collaborative airspace management strategies, as well as the development of the tools that will enable member States, their civil aviation authorities and potential users of the Arctic airspace to implement these policy and operational recommendations."