Pilotless aircraft: the horseless carriage of the twenty-first century?

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This paper identifies recurring issues in the regulation of new technologies through an historical review of the risk management of automobiles in the 1800s. Parallels are drawn between the regulation of early automobiles and that of the regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) today. It is found that many of the regulatory challenges facing UASs are analogous to those which faced the automobile industry more than a century and half ago and that the need for informed and objective decision making in policy development is reinforced. A systems engineering approach, based on general systems theory and decision-based design principles, is then proposed as a means for improving the objectivity, transparency and rationality in the risk management decision making process. An example risk management decision making scenario is given within the context of a small UAS operating over a populated area. The results obtained from this case study illustrate how even simple analysis can support the decision making process and highlights some of the potential challenges in the regulatory approach currently applied to UASs.

Keywords: UAS; UAV; decision-based design; regulation; risk management; systems engineering

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13669870802323353

Affiliations: 1: Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA), Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, Australia 2: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Mathematical and Information Sciences, Canberra, Australia

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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