ICAO’s Umanned Aviation Bulletin


As part of ICAO’s efforts to support regulators in developing and implementing a harmonized regulatory framework for unmanned aviation, and in light of the fact that the exchange of information amongst States regarding their unmanned aviation regulations was recommended by ICAO’s 39th Assembly, the following information has been collated by technical staff from public sources for the reference of our readers. While the information shared below, whether of an operational, economic or regulatory nature, is neither validated nor endorsed by ICAO, it is considered to be of noteworthy interest. In order to support consistent terminology, and since many States do not yet have regulations in place, please refer to the Key Terms for Unmanned Aviation at the end of this Bulletin.

Because of the ongoing challenges with COVID-19, ICAO postponed the Fourth DRONE ENABLE Symposium, which was going to be held in September 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The symposium, renamed DRONE ENABLE 2021, will now be held from 13 to 15 April 2021 in Rio de Janeiro.

Recognizing that an agreed global approach remains crucial to assisting businesses and others in launching their UAS or UTM services without negatively impacting the safety of manned aviation operations, or the safety of persons and property on the ground, ICAO remains committed to exploring these issues in depth at its DRONE ENABLE events.

A key process informing DRONE ENABLE discussions is the issuance by ICAO of the Requests for Information (RFIs).

The current COVID-19 situation may have negatively impacted the ability of States, organizations and individuals to adequately respond to this year’s RFI, so ICAO has extended the submission deadline to 25 September 2020. Those who have already submitted responses are welcome to update their original submission and those who were unable to meet the original timeline are invited to provide a submission. The main topic areas being targeted this year remain:

  • Unmanned aircraft (UA) performance requirements in a UTM environment
  • UTM system certification
  • UTM integration into airport environments and activities

Unmanned aircraft support emergency response missions

Unmanned aircraft (UA) are increasingly used globally to support emergency and rescue missions, during the COVID-19 pandemic, urban fires, forest fires, floods, earthquakes, etc. UA operations help firefighters, police, paramedics and doctors save lives, as they offer operational benefits and safety advantages during these complex missions.

Source: The International Emergency Drone Organization (IEDO)

Japan’s first BVLOS cargo demo with an unmanned helicopter between airports

Japan Airlines reported using an 80kg unmanned aircraft (UA) during two beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights to establish new logistic networks in remote islands. The UA transported fresh fish (20kg) from Kamigoto airport to Saiki city (35km).

Source: Japan UAS Industrial Development Association

Poland: Unmanned aircraft transport samples for COVID-19 testing

In April 2020, a pilot project was carried out to transport samples for testing for the presence of the COVID-19 virus using a cargo unmanned aircraft (UA) and supported by PansaUTM, managed by the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency. The flight was operated beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) between two hospitals in Warsaw.

Source: Unmanned Airspace

Israeli farmers use pollinating drones to fill COVID-19 labour shortage

To compensate for declining bee populations and overcome labour shortages due to the pandemic, farmers in Israel have used multiple unmanned aircraft (UA) flying simultaneously to dispense pollen from the air during the critical palm tree pollination period, between February and April.

Israeli farmers deploying pollinating drones to fill coronavirus labour shortage (Credit: BWR)

UAS Corridor established in New York State for emergency and medical uses

The State of New York has announced the creation of a 50-mile unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) corridor to connect the cities of Rome and Syracuse, NY.  The Corridor is expected to allow government agencies and first responders to operate UAS beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) for emergency response, as well as medical and test-kit deliveries between hospitals and labs.

Source: Nuair

Key Unmanned Aviation Terms
  • Unmanned aircraft (UA): Unmanned aircraft (UA) operate as part of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) which also includes a remote pilot station (RPS), a C2 Link for control and management, and other necessary components. UA includes a broad spectrum of aircraft, from unmanned free balloons, and model aircraft, to highly complex remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operated by licensed aviation professionals.
  • Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA): RPA are a subset of UA. A further subset of RPA is expected to be accommodated and ultimately integrated into the airspace for international, instrument flight rules (IFR) operations, which will require full regulatory certification.
  • Small UA: Generally weighing less than 25 kg, this subset of smaller UA is commonly referred to as drones.
  • Unmanned free balloon: This term describes non-power-driven, unmanned, lighter-than-air aircraft in free flight.
  • Model aircraft: This term describes small size unmanned aircraft, generally representing a scaled-down version of full-size aircraft and used for recreational purposes in the sport and pastime of aeromodelling.