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A Near-Term Path to Assured Aerial Autonomy
ISSN: 1946-3855, e-ISSN: 1946-3901
Published April 21, 2023 by SAE International in United States
Citation: Bartlett, P., Chamberlain, L., Singh, S., and Coblenz, L., "A Near-Term Path to Assured Aerial Autonomy," SAE Int. J. Aerosp. 16(3):325-335, 2023, https://doi.org/10.4271/01-16-03-0020.
Autonomy is a key enabling factor in uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) and advanced air mobility (AAM) applications ranging from cargo delivery to structure inspection to passenger transport, across multiple sectors. In addition to guiding the UAS, autonomy will ensure that they stay safe in a large number of off-nominal situations without requiring the operator to intervene. While the addition of autonomy enables the safety case for the overall operation, there is a question as to how we can assure that the autonomy itself will work as intended. Specifically, we need assurable technical approaches, operational considerations, and a framework to develop, test, maintain, and improve these capabilities.
We make the case that many of the key autonomy functions can be realized in the near term with readily assurable, even certifiable, design approaches and assurance methods, combined with risk mitigations and strategically defined concepts of operations. We present specific autonomy functions common to many civil beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and corresponding design assurance strategies, along with their contributions to an overall safety case. We provide examples of functions that can be certified under existing standards, those that will need runtime assurance (RTA) and those that will need to be qualified with statistical evidence.