A global drone registry in the making: IATA

In the wake of increased incidents of near misses by unmanned vehicles and drones, a United Nations-led effort is making significant headway in the creation of a global drone registry where geo-fencing and blockchain technology is being used to ensure that drones listed in the registry are unable to fly near restricted airspace.

Airlines from across countries of the world are backing the creation of a United Nations-led global registry for drones as there is mounting concerns of near collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is backing efforts by the United Nations’ aviation agency to develop such a registry, which will also track incidents involving drones and jets, said Rob Eagles, IATA’s director of air traffic management infrastructure.

The IATA aims to collaborate with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to use the registry for data analysis for improved safety.

ICAO is the one developing the registry, as part of a broader effort to create a set of common rules for unmanned aircrafts.

“One of the important things we would like to see on a registry as well is the compilation of data which would include incident and accident reporting,” said Eagles in an interview on the sidelines of IATA’s Safety and Flight Ops Conference in Montreal.

Airport operators and airlines are looking to drone registries, geo-fencing technology and stiffer penalties for operating drones near airports. These measures come in the wake of hobbyists and retailers, including Amazon.com Inc using drones for deliveries.

According to the U.K. Airprox Board, the number of near misses between aircrafts and drones have more than tripled between 2015 and 2017.

Last month, Air New Zealand Ltd stated a flight from Tokyo carrying 278 passengers and crew saw a drone flying at an approximate distance of just five meters from the Boeing 777-200 jet during its descent into Auckland.

A drone registry would allow law enforcement agencies to remotely identify and track unmanned vehicles, along with the names of their operator and owner.

“The intention at present is to merge this activity into the ICAO registry for manned aircraft, so that the sector has a single consolidated registry network,” said Anthony Philbin, spokesman for ICAO.

The manned aircraft registry is operated by Aviareto, a joint venture between Switzerland-based aviation technology group SITA and the Irish government.

Barbara Dalibard, SITA’s CEO, said her company plans on developing a blockchain-based global drone registry; it has already begin working with Geneva Airport on tests of a geo-fenced zone around the airport where drones listed in the registry would not be able to fly.

“The data is connected to the airport system,” said Dalibard during an interview. “The drone is approaching the airport and it says ‘No, go back’. If everything is connected you can ask the drone to change its flight plan or to readjust in order to get out of the danger zone”.

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