Civil aviation has to this point been based on the notion of a pilot operating the aircraft from within the aircraft itself and more often than not with passengers on board. Removing the pilot from the aircraft raises important technical and operational issues, the extent of which is being actively studied by the aviation community. Many of these issues will be identified in this circular.
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are a new component of the aviation system, one which ICAO, States and the aerospace industry are working to understand, define and ultimately integrate. These systems are based on cuttingedge developments in aerospace technologies, offering advancements which may open new and improved civil/ commercial applications as well as improvements to the safety and efficiency of all civil aviation. The safe integration of UAS into non-segregated airspace will be a long-term activity with many stakeholders adding their expertise on such diverse topics as licensing and medical qualification of UAS crew, technologies for detect and avoid systems, frequency spectrum (including its protection from unintentional or unlawful interference), separation standards from other aircraft, and development of a robust regulatory framework.
The goal of ICAO in addressing unmanned aviation is to provide the fundamental international regulatory framework through Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), with supporting Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS) and guidance material, to underpin routine operation of UAS throughout the world in a safe, harmonized and seamless manner comparable to that of manned operations. This circular is the first step in reaching that goal.
ICAO anticipates that information and data pertaining to UAS will evolve rapidly as States and the aerospace industry advance their work. This circular therefore serves as a first snapshot of the subject.