The National Academies

ACRP Synthesis 11-03/Topic S10-15 [Active (Synthesis)]

Current Landscape of UAS Use at Airports
[ ACRP 11-03 (Synthesis of Information Related to Airport Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Staff Responsibility: Thomas J. Helms, Jr.
Research Agency: Dprather Aviation Solutions, LLC
Principal Investigator: C. Daniel Prather
Fiscal Year: 2018

Final Scope 

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is the most significant new entrant into the National Airspace System (NAS) in 30 years. It is projected to expand rapidly across all air transportation system users and stakeholders. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has introduced several new rules and policies for the safe and efficient use of UAS on and around airports in the U.S. It is critical that airports develop their own capabilities, strategies and performance measures to effectively and efficiently integrate UAS into their daily operations. 
The next few years will see a rapid increase in the number of commercial and civilian UAS players in the U.S. It is crucial that airports prepare for the surge of UAS operations. Lack of preparation for the arrival of this new technology might result in costly mistakes, delays in implementation, and ultimately loss of potential benefits to all stakeholders. An important step for monitoring the benefits/impacts of integrating UAS into airport operations is to identify standardized performance metrics to track and evaluate airport performance of UAS use by airports or UAS activity near airports. Airports that have already started integrating UAS into their operations can share their experience with performance metrics related to challenges and opportunities. 

Airports in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) have already taken actions to better understand the challenges and opportunities for UAS at their airports with. The rapid introduction of UAS activities has sparked the need for guidance to educate and inform airport operators on how to manage UAS operations at their airports. In order to manage effectively and plan for future developments on the airfield, airport managers must be able to measure the current performance of their airport when operating UAS. A good performance metric for UAS should be: 1) Inclusive: covering the many aspects that UAS might have impact on, such as airport operation efficiency, environmental impact, safety; 2) Easy to quantify: can be communicated to different stakeholders, at different level of detail; and 3) Universal: the metric should be consistent across airports, making it meaningful to compare performance across airports. 

UAS have applications that will support the efforts of Airport operators to improve the efficiency of airport operations. These uses might include infrastructure inspections and assessments (e.g., runway/pavement inspections), data collection (e.g., land-use/GIS), wild life hazard management (e.g., bird strike management), security (e.g., monitoring of the airport boundary, buildings) and emergency response (e.g., firefighting). Airports are increasingly looking for ways to reduce costs, gain efficiencies and provide a better customer experience without compromising the safety and security of those within the airport environment. 

Airport managers, management teams, and stakeholders all desire airside infrastructure that fully meets the demand for UAS operations and need to be able to understand the resulting impacts and changes in demand and operations. Therefore, it is essential to have a set of performance metrics that establishes a taxonomy of definitions and classifications for use by all relevant stakeholders by providing a standardized understanding of the various metrics. A common taxonomy will facilitate activities that measure performance, needs, costs, and benefits. It will also create a common platform to communicate progress and results to all airport stakeholders. The ability to measure the benefits/impacts of UAS on airport performance can allow for wider application of UAS for use by airports and assist in the development of standard operating procedures and policies for wide implementation of UAS. 

ACRP 03-41: Common Performance Metrics for Airport Infrastructure and Operational Planning is currently establishing a reference guide of common metrics for airport infrastructure and planning. While some metrics are used primarily in investment and infrastructure development, others are used for ongoing assessment of operational performance. There is currently a lack of metrics specifically designed at measuring the airport/system performance as a result of direct/ in-direct use of UAS. Airport-centric performance metrics are needed in order to assist airport operators and stakeholders in improving efficiency and decision-making at their airports. It is important that performance metrics developed for new entrants/technologies like UAS are harmonized with existing metrics. For example, how will UAS centric airport metrics be harmonized with performance metrics related to NextGen, surface movement safety and ramp tower operations. 

This Synthesis project will be the first step in identifying appropriate metrics for UAS operations. With this Synthesis project, literature will be reviewed and interviews will be conducted to identify existing metrics and their effectiveness related to UAS performance. A future ACRP project could build on the Synthesis findings to develop future metrics relevant to UAS performance within the airport and NAS structures. Ultimately, the future metrics will be successful if they can be used effectively to identify performance synergies and performance gaps, and reveal quantitative tradeoffs between operational scenarios. 

The principal investigator should review currently used airport operational metrics and determine which metrics are or could be applicable to UAS. This should include both FAA-defined airport operational metrics and standard airport industry metrics.
As public outreach is critical to achieving integration of UAS operations into the NAS, the principal investigator should also identify any currently utilized metrics that relate to community and stakeholder outreach activities.
In addition, the principal investigator should identify any new operational metrics that are applicable to the airport performance with the integration of UAS including, but not limited to, the follow:
·         UAS sightings, reportings, and detections in the vicinity of an airport (e.g., within 5 miles or an operation that could impact operations)
·         UAS concerns and actions taken, including noise, privacy concerns, operational delays, etc.
·         107 flight authorizations (e.g., LAANC)
·         336 notifications, including airport objections
·         Airport/ATC communications requirements
·         Airport/ATC agreements with UAS operators
·         Mitigation actions
·         Enforcement actions
The Synthesis should address the metrics used at airports of all sizes and scopes, including other landing facilities (e.g., heliports).
Partial Information Sources 

• Riaz Ahmad. ACRP 01-19 (Active). Design and Development of a State Aviation Information Database. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington D.C., 2016. 
• Patricia Swenor. ACRP 03-45 (Active). Collecting and Sharing of Operational and Safety Data. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington D.C., 2017. 
• Steve Loper. ACRP 01-13 (Active). Developing a Database-Driven Web Application for Benchmarking Airport Performance. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington D.C., 2016. 
• Chrishanth Fernando. ACRP 03-42 (Active). Airports and UAS. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington D.C., 2017. 
• Barbara Bottiger. ACRP 03-41 (Active). Common Performance Metrics for Airport Infrastructure and Operational Planning. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington D.C., 2016. 
• Lisa Ellman. Partner, Hogan Lovells LLP and Co-Executive Director of Commercial Drone Alliance. 
• Bobby Valentine. UAS and Visualization Subject Matter Expert at Kimley-Horn and Associates. 
• Basil Yap. UAS Program Manager, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Division of Aviation 
• Mark Aitken. Director of Government Relations, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International 
• Glady Singh. Vice President for Government Services, Precision Hawk 
• Shahn Sederberg. Colorado Department of Transportation. 

Dr. Catherine F. Cahill, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Mr. Darshan Divakaran, North Carolina DOT
Dr. Eugene Gilbo, Volpe Center (Ret.)
Mr. Michael P. Hainsey, Golden Triangle Regional Airport
Mr. Michael Perez, Iowa State University
Mr. Jason Schwartz, Port of Portland
Mr. Jim Patterson, Federal Aviation Administration
Mr. Christopher J. Oswald, ACI-NA
Mr. Justin M. Towles, Ascension Global

TRB Staff 
Tom Helms 
Phone: 202/747-4396 
Email: thelms@nas.edu 

First Panel: June 12, 2018
Teleconference with Consultant: TBD
Second Panel: March 20, 2019


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