The National Academies

NCHRP 23-20 [Active]

Guidebook for Implementation of UAS Operational Capabilities

  Project Data
Funds: $279,918
Staff Responsibility: Ahmad Abu-Hawash
Research Agency: WSP USA Inc.
Principal Investigator: Mr. Paul Wheeler
Effective Date: 10/14/2022
Completion Date: 10/13/2024

State departments of transportation (DOTs) and local agencies are utilizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in more day-to-day operations such as asset inspections, operations, traffic incident management, mapping, bridge and structure inspections, geographic information system (GIS), environmental requirements, and a variety of other uses. However, there have been different challenges of integrating UAS operational capabilities into U.S. national airspace system. These unique challenges are related to (1) overlapping jurisdictional decision-making, funding, regulations and rules, and infrastructure development; (2) identifying roles and responsibilities, areas of overlap, and gaps in responsibilities; and (3) undefined or unaddressed issues that need work and options for mediating conflicting roles and responsibilities. Additionally, external developments on package delivery via UAS and advanced air mobility (AAM) raise issues about their safe operation over state and local rights-of-way and needed ground infrastructure and air space management. There is a need to aid state DOTs and local agencies in addressing the operational challenges and issues, and develop a roadmap for implementation of UAS operational capabilities.
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook to assist state DOTs and local agencies with the implementation of UAS operational capabilities.
Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research. The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective.
PHASE I—Planning
Task 1. Conduct a literature review of relevant research and current state of practice related to UAS operational capabilities (e.g., inspection, survey, monitoring, beyond visual line-of-sight, small package delivery). The review shall include published and unpublished research conducted through national, international, state, and pooled-fund sponsored research as well as the literature generated within the public sector and by the UAS/AAM/ urban air mobility (UAM) developers in the private sector.
Task 2. Conduct a survey of state DOTs and local agencies, and other public and private sectors to (1) identify current practices, funding resources, and strategies currently used for integrating UAS operational capabilities and (2) collect data needed to update the maturity of the UAS operational capabilities. The survey shall be reviewed and approved by NCHRP before distribution.
Task 3. Synthesize Tasks 1 and 2 to identify the knowledge gaps for the implementation of UAS operational capabilities. These gaps should be addressed in this research as budget permits, or in the recommendations for future research.
Task 4. Propose a methodology to achieve the research objective, to be fully developed in Phase II. At the minimum, the methodology shall:
  • Consider future UAS integration through UAS traffic management (UTM), AAM, and UAM;
  • Identify roles and responsibilities among state DOTs, and federal and local agencies including areas of overlap and gaps in responsibilities;
  • Develop a framework for coordinating resources from state DOTs or local agencies with UAS integration programs;
  • Develop outreach strategies for coordinating UAS integration between multiple jurisdictions and engaging with private stakeholders;
  • Identify federal funding resources available for state DOTs or local agencies for the implementation of UAS (including AAM/UAM) operational capabilities;
  • Identify requirements of workforce qualifications and training programs; and
  • Develop a standalone roadmap including the requirements for implementing the UAS operational capabilities by state DOTs including information technology (IT) infrastructure and security, data retention policy, organization structure and workflow, and training.
Task 5. Prepare a detailed outline of the proposed guidebook.
Task 6. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 5 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research no later than 6 months after contract award. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phases II and III.
PHASE II— Methodology Development
Task 7. Execute Task 4 according to the approved Interim Report No.1.
Task 8. Develop the guidebook according to the approved Task 5.
Task 9. Develop a plan to organize and conduct a workshop in which key stakeholders will review the draft guide and standalone road map.
Task 10. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents Tasks 7 through 9 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research no later than 10 months after approval of Phase I. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phase III.
PHASE III—Workshop and Final Deliverables
Task 11. Conduct a workshop with at least 15 representatives of state DOTs and other stakeholders to review the draft guidebook. Revise the draft guidebook and workshop materials taking into account feedback gathered during the workshop no later than 3 months after approval of Phase II.
Task 12. Prepare final deliverables including: (1) a conduct of research that documents the entire research effort, (2) the guidebook, (3) the stand-alone roadmap, and (4) a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” The draft deliverables are due no later than 3 months after approval of Phase II.  

Research in Progress

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