A recent rash of near mid-air collisions coupled with the widespread proliferation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) raise concerns that integration is posing additional risk to the National Airspace System. In 2016, sUAS sighting reports by manned aircraft pilots averaged 147 per month. In the first three quarters of 2017, sUAS sightings jumped to 188 per month. The purpose of this study was to evaluate sUAS operator behavior to determine potential interference with aviation operations. While previous research has indeed yielded findings about operator behavior, such studies were generally based on data derived from Aviation Safety Reporting System filings or the UAS sighting report database maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration. In this study, the authors partnered with a UAS technology company to deploy an AeroScope, a passive radiofrequency detection device, to detect UAS flight activity in an urban area. While the device was limited to collecting flight information from only DJImanufactured platforms, it is estimated that the company holds a market share in excess of 70% providing a reasonable barometer for sUAS activity in the sample area. Over the 19-day sample period, the AeroScope device recorded 258 detections of 77 unique sUAS platforms. The authors assessed sUAS operator behavioral characteristics, including: UAS models, operating altitudes, preferred flying days and times, flight durations, and operating locations. The authors assessed 93 potential violations of 14 CFR 107 regulations, including controlled airspace breaches, exceeding maximum flight altitudes, and flight outside of daylight or civil twilight hours. The authors concluded that UAS activity in the sample area posed potential conflicts with a runway visual approach, created a collision hazard with three heliports, and heightened risk for visual flight rules operations underneath a controlled airspace shelf. The authors determined existing sUAS geofencing systems were ineffective at deterring sUAS activity unless they imposed flight restrictions in addition to hazard notification.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ryan_wallace/22/