Unmanned Airborne Systems (UAS) offer significant benefits for long duration missions. They can also be used in situations where it is inappropriate to expose aircrew to increased levels of risk. Partly in consequence, they continue to experience accident rates that are significantly higher than those for most conventional aircraft. It can also be argued that increased mishap rates are due to lower standards of design and maintenance. UAS are, therefore, largely confined to segregated areas that are well away from other airspace users. There are growing commercial and political pressures for them to be integrated into airspace that is directly under the control of air traffic management. Police agencies would like to deploy miniature UAS in populated areas, for example, to augment conventional helicopter operations. There are proposals to operate unmanned freight operations from existing airports. Longer-term proposals include the use of UAS technology to replace the co-pilot. Automated systems might intervene only if the single human pilot is incapacitated. The following pages focus on the computational issues that form one part of wider set of 'system safety' concerns that must be addressed before UAS operations can be integrated into controlled airspace.
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