Demonstrating an Equivalent Level of Safety for sUAS in Shielded Environments

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Virginia Tech

The current proposed unmanned aircraft system (UAS) detect and avoid standards require the same safety metrics, even when in close proximity to the ground or structures. This requirement has the potential to hinder low altitude small unmanned aircraft operations, such as local package delivery and utility inspection. One of the main safety metrics for UASs to adhere to is a ``well clear" volume that quantifies the vertical and horizontal separation UASs are required to maintain from manned aircraft. The current volume of 2000 feet horizontal and +/- 250 feet vertical does not provide credit for the safety benefit of being close to an obstacle where manned aircraft do not fly and could prove to be too restricting for low-level flight operations (i.e., under 400 feet above ground level). This thesis suggests using smaller safety metric volumes than the well clear volume to demonstrate that operations at lower altitudes can still be proven to be just as safe as if they were held to the larger well clear volume standard by using obstacle and terrain shielding. The research leverages simulation to analyze different safety metrics and provides an example use case in which the methodology of shielded operations is applied to demonstrate how this methodology can be applied for a safety case.

unmanned aircraft systems, drones, avoidance algorithms, detect and avoid, well clear