December 5, 2019

ISO sets standard for airborne drone applications

Protocols cover quality, safety, security, and overall "etiquette" for the operation of commercial air drones.

By DC Velocity Staff

A major international standards group today released its first set of safety standards for unmanned aerial vehicles that could accelerate the safe adoption of these flying "drones" by shaping future regulation and legislation.

The move follows a 12-month period of consultation with drone professionals, academics, businesses, and the general public that was conducted by the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). ISO is an independent, non-governmental organization that develops voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant standards by acting as a worldwide federation of national standards bodies.

According to ISO, the publication of international safety and quality "Standards for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)" are set to have a massive impact on the future growth of the drone industry throughout the world. The standards will help shape future regulation and legislation, and are expected to trigger rapid acceleration in the use of air drones by organizations, ISO said.

Logistics applications for commercial drones so far have included limited use such as a pilot test for rural and urgent deliveries in Virginia by FedEx Corp., a proof-of-concept operation that delivered cookies to a cargo ship by maritime freight giant Maersk Group, and a collaboration between UPS Inc. and drone startup Zipline International Inc. to deliver blood supplies to Rwandan health workers.

Other test cases happened when Inc. delivered a bottle of sunscreen to an Amazon-hosted conference in Palm Springs, Calif., UPS whisked an asthma inhaler to an island in Boston Harbor, and Google's parent company Alphabet Inc. dropped off burritos from a Chipotle restaurant to hungry students at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus.

ISO's new standards include protocols on quality, safety, security, and overall "etiquette" for the operation of commercial air drones. They are the first in a series of emerging standards, with others due to address topics including: general specifications, product manufacture and maintenance, unmanned traffic management (UTM), and testing procedures. The "product manufacture" standards for UAS, which are due to be published next year, will combine with the operational standards already published to establish a full-airworthiness suite of standards for UAS.

According to ISO, air drones are already beginning to provide solutions to some of the most pressing economic, transport, security, environmental, and productivity challenges faced by governments and industry throughout the world. The technology has already helped to reduce road traffic, ease congestion, save lives through a reduction in accidents, and reduce pollution in cities. As well as speeding up the delivery of large-scale infrastructure projects, drones are expected to reduce the need for some expensive new major transport infrastructure altogether, the group said.

Revolutionary approaches for air drones are now emerging for both freight and passenger transportation, with drones providing a cost-effective and environmentally responsible alternative to traditional methods, relieving the burden on our already stretched urban road networks, ISO said. Further applications in the agricultural, maritime, construction, and energy sectors are already transforming businesses.

"The standards will deliver a new confidence among investors in the safety, security, and compliance of commercial drone operations, which together with the Product Manufacture and Maintenance Standards, is expected in turn to facilitate a massive expansion in the availability and use of drone technology in the years to come," Robert Garbett, convenor of the ISO Working Group responsible for global air drone operational standards, chairman of the BSI Committee for U.K. Drone Standards, and founder of the consultancy Drone Major Group, said in a release. "Drones are a transformative global phenomenon, offering an unprecedented economic opportunity for those businesses and countries with the foresight to embrace this technology," he said.

Within the supply chain field, ISO has been best known to date for granting certifications such as the ISO 9001 standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS), ISO 13485 for additional quality management certification, the ISO 27001 certification for information security, the ISO 14001 standard for an environmental management system (EMS), or the ISO 18185 standard for electronic cargo seals for tampering detection on freight containers.

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