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Worldwide drone standards begin release

Posted: 11th Dec 2018

Categories: Governance, Support

The first worldwide standards for drones are being released for public consultation by the International Standards Organisation.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) is developing a set drone standards, with several years of collaboration between standards institutions from across the world leading to public consultation on the first set..

A set of the ISO Draft International Standards for Drone Operations were formally released in late November 2018 for public consultation, with drone professionals, academics, businesses and the general public being invited to submit comments by 21 Jan 2019. Final adoption of these standards is expected in the US, UK and worldwide in 2019.

They are expected to provide a consistent platform which should trigger rapid acceleration of growth within the drone industry, as organisations throughout the world adopt drones against a new background of reassurance on safety and security. The new standards will play an essential role in guiding how drones are designed, programmed, manufactured and operated safely and effectively in a framework of regulatory compliance.

The consultation is the first step in the standardisation of the global drone industry, encompassing applications for all environments – surface, underwater, air and space. These standards are particularly significant for the general public and government, in that they address Operational Requirements of aerial drones, including protocols on Safety, Security and overall ‘Etiquette’ for drone use. They are the first in a series, with others addressing areas such as General Specifications, Manufacturing Quality and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM).

A prime characteristic of these drone standards is their focus on air safety, which is at the forefront of public attention in connection with airports and other sensitive locations. The new standards propose a new ‘etiquette’ for drones which encourage and promote compliance regarding no-fly zones, local regulation, flight log protocols, maintenance, training and flight planning documentation. Social responsibility is also at the heart of the standards, strengthening the responsible use of a technology that aims to improve and not obstruct everyday life. Air safety will be further strengthened by the rapid development of geo-fencing and of counter-drone technology.


The standards are also set to address public concerns surrounding privacy and data protection, demanding that:

  • operators must have appropriate systems to handle data alongside communications and control planning when flying
  • the hardware and software of all related operating equipment must also be kept up to date
  • the fail-safe of human intervention is required for all drone flights, including autonomous operations, ensuring that drone operators are accountable

The ISO Committee looking at drone standards is ISO/TC 20/SC 16 Unmanned aircraft systems. The commmittee was inaugurated in 2015 with responsibility “for developing and maintaining standards for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Specifically, the scope of the subcommittee is the standardization of materials, components and equipment for construction and operation of the UAS, which consists of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the ground control station (GCS) and radiocommunication links connecting them. The subcommittee also includes in its scope equipment used in the servicing and maintenance of these systems. Operational standards are also an area that the subcommittee is undertaking.”

The catalogue of standards being developed under ISO/TC 20/SC 16 includes:

  • ISO/CD 21384-1 Unmanned aircraft systems — Part 1: General specification
  • ISO/CD 21384-2 Unmanned aircraft systems — Part 2: Product systems
  • ISO/DIS 21384-3 Unmanned aircraft systems — Part 3: Operational procedures
  • ISO/CD 21895 Categorization and classification of civil unmanned aircraft systems
  • ISO/AWI TR 23629-1 UAS Traffic Management (UTM) — Part 1: General requirements for UTM

The British Standards Institute committee, ACE/20 – Unmanned Aircraft Systems, leads the UK’s development of standards for drone manufaturing and operation in the UK. Standards it is develoing:

  • PD ISO/TR 23629-1 UAS Traffic Management (UTM). Part 1: General requirements for UTM — Survey results on UTM
  • ISO/TC 20/SC 16 N 99, ISO/NP TR 23629-1 — UAS Traffic Management (UTM) — Part 1 General requirements for UTM — Survey results on UTM
  • ISO/TC 20/SC 16 N 119 UAS Traffic Management (UTM) — Part 7: Part 4: UTM data and information transfer at interface of traffic management integration system and UAS service suppliers — Data model related to spatial data for UAS and UTM
  • ISO/TC 20/SC 16 N 106, ISO/NP 23665, Unmanned Aircraft Systems — Training of Operators
  • BS ISO 21895 Categorization and classification of civil unmanned aircraft systems
  • BS ISO 21384-1 Unmanned aircraft systems. Part 1: General specification
  • BS ISO 21384-2 Unmanned aircraft systems. Part 2: Product systems

Two standards are currently open for public comment:

Published standards include:

Note: Standards organisations charge for their work, so you may need to be a member or to pay to access a standard.

Note: Standards are not regulations and have no legal standing unless laws are passed to declare a standard to be law. National standards are minimum requirements agreed by any interested parties (manufacturers, operators, regulators, etc) which a compliant product should meet before it can be legally sold or used in that country. National standards bodies (e.g. BSI in the UK) set standards for a product in their country, and national law making bodies (e.g. the Westminster Parliament in the UK) create the laws regulating operation of the product in their own country. Standards and regulations may differ from country to country, but should not fall below globally accepted standards where these are agreed. Finally, while a product may be compliant with an international standard, it may not meet a national standard or regulation in another country, and vice versa.