System design verification process for a drone manufacturers and operators
Recently EASA has issued the first certificate under which drone manufacturers or operators can request the Agency´s design verification for a drone to be used for a particular operation. This verification process is mandatory for operations within SAIL III and IV (Specific assurance and integrity level), and once it is obtained, a drone is approved for a particular type of usage. This means that any European operator applying to the National Aviation Authority(NAA) for an operational approval with such a drone will not need any further additional verification from EASA.
The applicant has two different options to apply a verification design process.
1. The operator applies to the National Aviation Authority for an operational authorisation UAS. This process is illustrated in Figure 1. The output of this way would be the authorisation of a particular operation intended to be performed. If the operational SAIL is greater than III, the considerations derived from all the OSOs (Operational Safety Objective) related to systems must be approved by EASA. Then, if an operator applies to its NAA, the Authority will derive to EASA the necessary documentation to demonstrate evidence to assess the robustness of these OSOs. As it is specified in the Figure below, they are:
- Operational conditions and procedures
- Remote pilot competency
- Design of the drone
Once the design verification process has been approved, the NAA can issue the operational authorisation.
Through this process the design verification does not apply to the platform, but to the operation. It means that if the same platform is going to be used for a different operation, it will have to be replied to the same process again.
Verification report required by NAA
Figure 1: Design verification process.
2. On the other hand, a manufacturer can spontaneously apply for a verification design process directly to EASA. In this case, the manufacturer of a UAS applies directly to obtain a design verification approval. Once the applicant obtains the issue from EASA, when an operation is going to be performed with the approved UAS, the OSOs that concern any system related considerations would be directly approved and only the ones related with operational issues should be assessed by the NAA. Then, by applying voluntary to a design verification report, the approval of an operation, that in any case would be managed by the NAA, would be easier since the NAA can directly approve the operation. In other words, if an operator applies for an authorization with a UAS in possession of a verification design report, there would be no need to ask EASA for authorisation regarding the systems related OSOs.
Manufacturer voluntary applies for a verification report
Figure 2: Voluntary Design Verification Process
It should be clarified that a manufacturer that voluntarily applies for a Design Verification Process can either apply for the verification of the whole system or just for a particular subsystem, such as a flight termination system.