Gur Kimchi, vice president and co-founder of Amazon Prime Air, spoke on this concept of operations during his address at NASA's UAS Traffic Management Convention: A New Era of Aviation, taking place July 28-30 in California’s Silicon Valley.
In a paper provided by the Small UAV Coalition, of which Amazon Prime Air is a member, Amazon outlines the concept by explaining that most ideas for airspace integration have been based on “integrating medium or large unmanned aircraft systems into non-segregated civil airspace,” which is “airspace above 500 feet, where most civil and military aviation activities occur.”
Instead, says Amazon, considering how big the small UAS sector is becoming, “the safest and most efficient environment for sUAS operations � from basic recreational users to sophisticated [beyond line of sight (BLOS)] fleets � is in segregated civil airspace below 500 feet.”
This segregated airspace, explains Amazon, will act as a “buffer” for sUAS from all other aircraft operations.
The proposed model for operations includes the following zones:
1) Low-speed localized traffic (under 200 feet)
- “Terminal, non-transit operations such as surveying, videography and inspection and operations for lesser equipped vehicles � e.g., ones without sophisticated sense-and-avoid technology”
- “Lesser equipped vehicles” would be restricted from certain areas � e.g., “heavily populated areas”
2) High-speed transit (200-400 feet)
- “Well equipped vehicles as determined by the relevant performance standards and rules”
3) No-fly zone (400-500 feet)
- No sUAS allowed, excluding for emergency situations
The company notes there are also “pre-defined, low-risk locations,” which will be determined by aviation authorizations. These include, for example, designated flying spaces for Academy of Model Aeronautics members where there would be “pre-established parameters for altitude and equipage.”
This overall concept is not set in stone, says Amazon, which anticipates it “will be refined over time” through “close collaboration with public and private industry on the development of an approach that is safe and efficient for all types of operations.”
Amazon's full paper can be found here.
Photo courtesy of NASA Ames/Eric James: Gur Kimchi at the NASA UTM Convention
Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Air: Airspace design for small drone operations