ASTM forms new standards committee on safety and performance of unmanned air vehicle systems

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 June 2004




(2004), "ASTM forms new standards committee on safety and performance of unmanned air vehicle systems", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 76 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

ASTM forms new standards committee on safety and performance of unmanned air vehicle systems

ASTM forms new standards committee on safety and performance of unmanned air vehicle systems

Keywords: Standards, Safety, UAV

ASTM International, one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world, recently announced the formation of a new committee to develop safety and performance standards for unmanned air vehicle (UAV) systems. The committee is comprised of a diverse range of stakeholders from around the world including manufacturers of UAVs and their components, federal agencies, design professionals, professional societies, maintenance professionals, trade associations, financial organisation and academia.

The new ASTM committee, F38 on UAV systems, comes together at a time when interest in market development for UAVs is at an all time high. Since the 1950 s, when UAV development began, applications for UAV systems have principally been military-related. Recent gains in UAV technology have resulted in higher bandwidth to address the challenge of improved onboard intelligence, and smaller, more powerful computers to enable a flexible, more reliable autonomous flight.

These new technologies have spurred development of new generation UAV systems for deployment in new government related applications such as border and port security, as well as the potential use in commercial market applications, including environmental monitoring and research, meteorology, wildlife reconnaissance, natural resource management and agriculture.

Consensus under the ASTM umbrella

Critical to the evolution of the UAV industry is the ability of vehicles to operate commercially in the National Airspace System (MAS). Regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NAS access is difficult to obtain without an industry commitment on the development of consensus standards for safety, performance and product proficiency.

The FAA encouraged the association for unmanned vehicle systems international (AUVSI) to approach ASTM regarding the gathering of industry stakeholders under the ASTM standards development process to initiate the development of consensus standards for UAV systems. The formation of ASTM Committee F38 follows a similar FAA action 1 year back that was the impetus for ASTM Committee F37 on light sport aircraft.

Daryl Davidson, Executive Director, AUVSI, commented, “AUVSI has been working with the FAA since 1998 to heighten awareness of this critical need. We felt it was time to involve ASTM and its expertise in consensus-based standards efforts. The main challenge is including all of the many types of UAVs in this effort so that all segments of the industry have a say in the final solutions. This inclusiveness is what makes the ASTM effort critically valuable.”

Dave Grilley, UAV Operations Analyst at SRA International, Inc. (NYSE: SRX) and Chairman of Subcommittee F38.02 on Flight Operations, added, “In order for UAVs to explore and develop their commercial niche, they need to gain access to the MAS. Standards are the key to achieving NAS access and opening up compelling and unique new markets for UAVs. With the help of the proven ASTM consensus process, we can develop sound technical standards for UAV safety and performance and achieve the same success as our counterparts in manned aviation.”

ASTM standards will drive industry growth

F38 will bring together hundreds of technical experts from the public and private sectors to write voluntary consensus standards pertaining to UAV design, safety and performance criteria including:

  • definition of minimum safety, performance requirements and flight proficiency requirements;

  • quality assurance and manufacturing controls that assure vehicles conform to design;

  • production acceptance tests and procedure to assure that completed UAV systems meet the performance demonstrated in vehicle prototypes; and

  • a system for continued operational safety monitoring, creating a base line plan for continuing airworthiness.

Broad range of stakeholder support

F38 has already attracted close to 200 members with broad global participation. As the committee plans for its next meeting in 2004, stakeholder support is strong.

Stephen R. Schmidt, Test and Evaluation Engineer, Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., noted, “UAV design standards will allow manufacturers the opportunity to build new air vehicle systems that will fit into the national airspace and operate seamlessly with existing airplane traffic. The highways in the sky are used everyday by commercial and military aircraft. ASTM standards are the driving force that will lead to UAVs having access to those same highways in the sky”.

Industry feedback and comments on the new ASTM Committee F38 should be directed to Pat A. Picariello, Director of Developmental Operations. Tel: +1 610 832 9720; E-mail:; Web site: COMMITTEEF38

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