SAE investigating System Safety standard for UAS

Automation plays a role in aviation safety for manned and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). UAS rely heavily on automation through sensory feedback and direct manipulation of controls. Thanks to advancements in sensors, computation and control algorithms, the pace of UAS automation is accelerating, but human interaction still exists on both ends of the spectrum.

Any efforts on aerospace system design and safety assessments have likely been impacted by SAE’s S-18 Aircraft and Systems Development and Safety Assessment Committee, and its ARP4754: Guidelines for Development of Civil Aircraft and Systems and ARP4761: Guidelines and Methods for Conducting the Safety Assessment Process on Civil Airborne Systems and Equipment, two standards that are generally accepted by global aviation authorities as a means of compliance to rules for aerospace system design and safety assurance for more than two decades. ARP4754 provides recommendations for the safe development and design of aircraft and systems, taking into account aircraft functions and operating environments. ARP4761 presents guidelines for performing safety assessments of civil aircraft, systems, and equipment, particularly when addressing compliance with certification requirements.

These documents, along with a host of others currently published and in-development, are widely accepted for manned aircraft. The proliferation of UAS has prompted the S-18 committee to identify shortcomings related to specific technical aspects needed for UAS development. To lead these efforts, S-18 established the S-18UAS Autonomy Working Group. The committee’s first document, AIR7121: Applicability of Existing Development Assurance and System Safety Practices to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, is intended to identify specific gaps in both ARP4754 and ARP4761 processes that affect UAS development, the domains where the gaps should be filled, and provide a common understanding of necessary guidance needed to support development assurance and system safety for both developers and regulators.

The UAS industry is swift and dynamic, so the efforts of the S-18UAS working group is important to both industry and regulators for enabling safe UAS integration into the national and international airspace. These are global efforts, working jointly with EUROCAE WG-63 Complex Aircraft Systems on SAE/EUROCAE documents: ARP4754A/ED-79A and ARP4761/ED-135, along with the SG-1 Applicability of Existing Development Assurance and System Safety Practices to UAS and VTOL.

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