#2 - The Concept of Operations of SORA (ConOps)

June 28, 2022

The first step of the SORA process is to develop the Concept of Operations (ConOps). This major document consists of a description of technical, operational and system information used to assess the risk linked with the intended UAS operation. Guidance on how to collect and present this information was published by JARUS in the SORA Annex A and provides a detailed framework for it. The ConOps covers a wide range of topics that can be grouped into two main parts: the operation relevant information and the technical relevant information.

The operational part, or first part, as indicated in its name, must cover all operational aspects of the UAS operations. This complete and detailed depiction allows the Civil Aviation Authority to gain a full overview and understanding of how, when, where, and under which conditions the operations are to be performed by the applicant. It must carefully describe all aspects of the operations and answer all questions the Authority might need to ask (for example: Who is the staff involved? How are the tasks organized? Who is responsible for each part of the operation? How does the team proceed in different situations? What is the timeframe of the activity? and many more). This section of the ConOps includes:

  • the organization overview,
  • the procedures, the training and
  • the references.

Meanwhile, the second part of the ConOps intends to bring in all the technical details about the specific system to be used for the proposed operations. This content aims to provide the Authority with the most accurate information available about the system itself, the technology used, and its limitations and capabilities. This information is crucial especially since many companies develop their own aircraft, platform, and system: Only they themselves can precisely describe their own product. Ultimately, a realistic assessment can be performed only with a complete description provided by the applicant, and this should cover at least:

  • the description of the UAS (the UA along with its control segment)
  • the geo-fencing
  • the ground support equipment (GSE)
  • the Command and Control (C2) Link segment and
  • all safety features

As the ConOps must also describe how the Operational Safety Objectives (OSO) are met, it should be developed following an iterative process. The applicant should first get a good understanding of the likely SAIL requirement in order to prepare the ConOps accordingly. Being the core reference for the SORA and the foundation for all other activities, the ConOps should be of high quality, as detailed and accurate as possible. After one reads it, there must remain no unknown about the whole UAS operation planned.

In my next article, we will look more closely at the #2 and #3 steps of the SORA. Stay tuned to learn about the Ground Risk Class (GRC)!

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About the authors

Aurélie-Joy Pascual

Aurélie-Joy is a Senior Consultant of Drones Operational Authorizations at Murzilli Consulting and an aviation expert with a very broad background, ranging from Environmental Engineering to Airline Operations. She started her aviation career as a Trainee Air Traffic Controller, to later on gain several years of experience at a major international airline, and ultimately worked her way into the drone industry. Her qualifications and previous roles include Flight Dispatch, Air Traffic Management, Airline Operations Research and UAS Flight Director.

Today, and after having gained real-life drone operations experience with one of the most competitive drone delivery system globally, she is advising drone companies on their operational authorizations worldwide, bringing along her expertise in both aviation and technology. She is passionate about innovation in high-risk industries and safety challenges.

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