Legal Aspects of Airport Programs

Preparing Airports for Legal Considerations with Innovative and Emerging Aviation Technologies

The legal, policy, and regulatory environment may present challenges for certifying and authorizing some technologies due to novel features and combinations of features that could be found in novel aircraft designs. While this is not an exhaustive list, some of these could include distributed electric propulsion/tilt-wing propulsion, vertical take-off and land, autonomy hardware and software, optionally piloted configurations, electric energy storage, and others.

Background--State the problem and why research is necessary. Highlight the legal and regulatory issues as they specifically pertain to airports.

The legal, policy, and regulatory environment may present challenges for certifying and authorizing some technologies due to novel features and combinations of features that could be found in novel aircraft designs. While this is not an exhaustive list, some of these could include distributed electric propulsion/tilt-wing propulsion, vertical take-off and land, autonomy hardware and software, optionally piloted configurations, electric energy storage, and others. While established processes can delay technology deployment as manufacturers, air carriers, and aircrew go through certification and training processes that may delay deployment and increase costs; these regulatory processes can also be an enabler by providing public assurance that the standard for safety is sufficiently high. More research is needed to identify existing, emerging, and potential legal and regulatory strategies for emerging aviation technologies, including: 1) autonomy and highly complex software; 2) electric propulsion and energy storage; 3) unmanned and optionally piloted aircraft; and 4) ratio of aircraft to operators less than 1.

Objective--State the objective, including a brief description of the intended deliverable, which airport stakeholders are the intended audience, and how their needs will be met by the deliverable.

The objective of this research is to identify existing, emerging, and potential legal and regulatory strategies for emerging aviation technologies and their potential implications on airports related to:

- Autonomy and Highly Complex Software: Machine learning and other algorithms used for automation are non-deterministic, which means that even for the same input, the algorithm may exhibit different behaviors on different runs;

- Electric Propulsion and Energy Storage: Both propulsion and energy storage may pose a variety of challenges. More research is needed to understand a variety of risks associated with aircraft electrification;

- Unmanned and Optionally Piloted Aircraft: In order for aircraft to operate autonomously, there are a number of operational risks, such as physical security, operational procedures, cybersecurity and unmanned traffic management that will need to be considered as part of airworthiness; and

- Ratio of Aircraft to Operators Less Than 1: Several aviation business models involve a transition period to full autonomy that may include operations centers with remote operators controlling multiple aircraft. The associated operational risks will need to be considered as part of airworthiness certification; airspace access; crew training; certifications; and operational approvals.

This project would identify the potential legal implications of the above issues on airports; and identify existing, emerging, and potential strategies from airports and aviation authorities domestically and abroad.

Relevance to Airport Legal Issues--ACRP's Legal Research Program focuses on legal and regulatory challenges and issues as they specifically pertain to airports. Please describe how this topic is relevant and unique to airports such that it should be researched.

Preparing for Autonomy and Highly Complex Software; Electric Propulsion and Energy Storage; Unmanned and Optionally Piloted Aircraft; and Ratio of Aircraft to Operators Less Than 1 have enormous potential legal implications for airports. This early exploratory study would identify early considerations as well as developing a potential legal and regulatory roadmap for future research as these four technologies mature and mainstream.

Information Sources--Organizations, individuals, or related literature.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Advancing Aerial Mobility: A National Blueprint. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25646.

Reiche, C., Goyal, R., Cohen, A., Serrao, J., Kimmel, S., Fernando, C., & Shaheen, S. (2018). Urban Air Mobility Market Study. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0fz0x1s2

Serrao, J., Nilsson, S., & Kimmel, S. (2018). A Legal and Regulatory Assessment for the Potential of Urban Air Mobility (UAM).https://escholarship.org/uc/item/49b8b9w0

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Idea No. 546