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NOAA UAS Program Briefing at Drone Enable Symposium 2019


Captain Philip Hall, Director of the NOAA UAS Program Office in OAR, recently was invited to speak at this year’s 3rd Drone Enable Symposium, hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at their headquarters in Montreal, Canada on November 12-14, 2019.  A specialized agency of the United Nations, ICAO helps to define and regulate operational practices for international air navigation, while fostering the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth of aircraft operations around the world.  The symposium brought together key stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and international organizations that are active in the unmanned aviation realm with the goal of enabling the timely exchange of research, best practices, lessons learned, and respective challenges.  A large spectrum of complex issues were discussed at great depth, such as the development of a UAS traffic management (UTM) system, cyber issues, high altitude operations, and more (

Fig 1. Captain Philip Hall, Director of the NOAA UAS Program Office in OAR, presenting at 3rd Drone Enable Symposium, hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

 Serving on a panel session entitled, “UAS Operations Over the High Seas”, Captain Hall participated in a discussion topic that focused on a broad region of the globe that many countries are interested in, or are already conducting, UAS operations. Under the current regulatory environment, high seas UAS operations must be approved by the State of Registry and be conducted in accordance with ICAO Annex 2— Rules of the Air, which clearly states that “these rules apply without exception”.  In general, the panel discussed the challenges of, and potential solutions to, enabling uncertificated UAS operations in high seas airspace.  During this time, Captain Hall impressed upon the audience how important these remote areas are for several NOAA missions. In addition, Captain Hall referenced past and ongoing efforts to effectively coordinate with all respective Flight Information Regions.  He also presented an overview of three types of NOAA UAS operational missions, involving air-launched platforms for measuring critical atmospheric variables in Atlantic Ocean basin tropical cyclones, land-based operations from the northern coast of Alaska for whale surveys in the Chukchi Sea, and ship-based operations in the Bering Sea to study seal populations (

 “The challenge for us is that there is not a standardized approach for operating in these areas… every operation is new”, said Captain Hall during his closing remarks. He went on to say, “It’s also unknown how we are going to mitigate all the concerns, but we are looking forward to seeing this move forward with ICAO.”