ANSP Considerations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operations

ANSP Considerations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operations addresses increasing demand on air traffic management (ATM) by the introduction of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations into airspace and considers how to safely accommodate these new entrants into airspace.

Regulators around the world are beginning to permit small scale, local UAS operations while researching opportunities to expand use in both uncontrolled and controlled airspace. The challenge for ATM is how to safely integrate these new technologies into airspace and continue efficient and effective operations. The audience for this document includes air navigation service providers (ANSPs), ATM and ANSP policy makers and management and staff, including those specifically responsible for ATM procedures.


  • Raise awareness of UAS operations to ANSPs
  • Inform ANSPs how UAS can be  accommodated safely into ATM systems
  • Identify some of the issues that need to be addressed to safely achieve greater UAS integration in the future
  • Provide information to assist in developing UAS training materials for ANSPs. (Note – CANSO members can find additional guidance on the CANSO Global ATM Net)

What’s next?

This is a living document and will evolve over time to incorporate updates to the UAS operational environment as they mature. Some of the technical solutions (detect and avoid) and future concepts (UAS traffic management (UTM)) identified are still being addressed and CANSO, via its dedicated Workgroups and industry network, is working alongside industry partners to embrace these challenges. Find out more about CANSO’s Operations Workgroups.

What are UAS?

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) considers any aircraft flown without a pilot on board as an unmanned aircraft (UA) and all the components that enable that operation as part of a UAS. UAS come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and fulfil many diverse capabilities. Ranging in weight from a few grams to several tonnes, UAS are operating at altitudes from near the earth’s surface to the edge of space. Some UAS fly at slow speeds, while others are capable of very high speed, and some can remain airborne for several days.

Drones, or small UAS (sUAS), are considered separately from those capable of flight in controlled airspace on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. Currently there is an increase in civil operations of smaller UAS, and day-to-day presence of UAS operating within, or in the vicinity of, controlled airspace may pose challenges for ANSPs to ensure separation of UAS from both manned and other unmanned aircraft in non-segregated airspace. Speed, manoeuvrability, climb rate, performance characteristics, and avionic system equipage may differ substantially from conventional aircraft and may necessitate changes in standards and procedures governing ATM in the future.

Unmanned aircraft are referred to as remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) when they are capable of interacting with ANSPs in a manner similar to traditional manned aircraft (i.e. on an IFR flight plan). RPAS are certified by a regulator and flown with a licensed pilot who is directly involved with flight operations.

RPAS/UAS Operations