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Certificates of Authorization

Collision Avoidance

Airworthiness Certification

Pilot Certification and Human Factors

MTCR & Export Control


Civil UAV Pilot Certification

As of October 2005 there are no FAA pilot certification processes or procedures for UAV pilots promulgated for operating an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in the United States National Airspace System. Many opinions abound vis a vis pilot training standards. None have regulatory standing.

TAG Aerospace operates a training facility in South America. The UAV Applications Center at NASA Ames is developing a curriculum for the future. BattleSpace Inc trains internal personnel as do most UAV vendors. No public training is currently offered. A marketplace premium is placed on operators who have undergone military training at Ft. Huachuca and other military training sites.

UAVM will continue to monitor pilot certification closely and report as this area progresses toward interim and final regulations.

The bottom line is that there are no (ZERO) US based technical pilot training programs are currently operational to train an individual as a UAV operator for Commercial (Civil) missions. None.

In the AIAA magazine Aerospace America 2002 J.R. Wilson published this overview of UAVs and the Human Factor.

Even within the military there is disagreement as to what constitutes a qualified pilot. The USAF promotes the view that only a qualified pilot can operate a UAV. For the Predator Class UAV and systems like the Global Hawk or soon to some online UCAVs this may indeed become the standard. The USARMY is currently training enlisted non pilots to fly the Shadow and Hunter classes of UAVs. There is some data published in terms of "Human Factor" analysis. In At the Crossroads: Future "Manning" for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Maj. James Hoffman discusses this controversy within the military(see also this presentation on the same topic. In it Maj. Hoffman attributes some of the discourse to the "Icarus Syndrome".

A general discussion of Human Factor research and analysis follows:

The Air Force Research Lab published "A Human Factors Testbed for Command and Control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" and "UAV Human Factors Research within the AFRL/HEC". AFRL sponsored this research by Lewis, Polvichai and Scerri entitled Scaling-up Human Control for Large UAV Teams.

Dixon, Wickens and Chang of the Human Factors Group at the University of Illinois published Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Flight Control: False Alarms Versus Misses. Wickens also presented Human Factors Observations on Human Robotic Interfaces at the National Academy of Sciences in 2004.

USAARL Report Np. 2004-11 - The Role of Human Causal Factors in US ARMY Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Accidents was published in 2004.

Human Factors Implications of UAVs in the National Airspace was studied for the FAA by McCarley and Wickens, University of Illinois as reported in this Powerpoint presentation. The following areas of importance were highlighted.

They identified 18 human factors topics unique to UA, separated into 4 main topic areas

    1. Automation Issues flight control, degraded reliability, see-and-avoid automation, takeoff and landing automation.

     2. Pilot Interface Issues control interface options, data requirements, display augmentation, multimodal displays, display and control standardization, pilot decision-making.

     3. Air Traffic Management Procedural Issues Control handoffs, data-link delays, data-link loss.

     4. Crew Qualifications.

     5. Crew size, KSA requirements, training requirements, training qualifications, medical qualifications.

A ranking was performed on those issues thought to have the highest priority for the FAA

• Five issues were selected for further study in 2006.

    1. Whether and how much experience piloting a manned aircraft should be required for UA pilot certification, and whether this requirement should vary across UA types.

    2. Assess and compare the effectiveness and human performance of the variety of existing interface designs and explore possible future designs.

    3. Assess air traffic controllers’ and UA operators compensatory responses to time delays in communication, and to determine the impact of communication delays on air traffic flow.

    4. Define what the UA should be programmed to do in the case of a total loss of GCS-UA control loop communications

    5. Determine the desirable and appropriate level of automation for takeoff and landing for a variety of vehicles in civilian airspace.

McCarly and Wickens of the Institude of Aviation of the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign in April of 2005 published Human Factors Implications of UAVs in the National Airspace. ( report summary from a similar 2004 study). They point out that mishap rates are several times higher for UAVs operated by the military than for manned missions. As academics, not surprisingly, they recommend further research to: 

• Determine the circumstances under which various modes of UAV flight control—fully automated, partially automated, manual—are appropriate. 

• Determine whether or not the level of automated flight control should be reconfigurable, such that the operator can alternate between levels of control when he/she deems appropriate.

• Determine whether the reconfiguration of flight control should itself be adaptively automated, such that the UAV system adjusts the level of automated flight control to match the current circumstances (e.g., the current communications delay between UAV and GCS). 
 • Determine how and when the UAV operator will be allowed to override the automated flight control system. 

The result of this work would be a set of rules advising what level of automation should be available/required, during what phases of flight and types of operations.

Hansman and Weibel of the MIT ICAT have published Human and Automated Integration Considerations for UAV Systems.

Brandes Associates Inc. presented Developing Standards for UAS Pilots for the ASTM f-38 Committee at the 2005 CERI UAV HF Workshop. 

Simulators are available and will become an important factor just as simulators are currently being adopted to teach first time model aviators the fundamentals of flying miniature aircraft.  Site Map