#1 - The basics of SORA

June 9, 2022

For many years, safety for unmanned aircraft systems has been a central topic in discussions held by the industry’s stakeholders. The fact that the approach has to be different than the one applied for manned aircraft but still needs to guarantee a similar level of safety makes the situation particularly challenging and complex to address.

Certification authorities have a common objective to define rules that guarantee the safety of UAV operations without preventing the development of the industry sector by blocking new applications. In this context, JARUS (the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems) developed a methodology called SORA which provides UAS operators with a solution to assess the risk of their operations and apply for authorization. SORA stands for Specific Operations Risk Assessment and allows for systematically identifying the risk of complex UAV operations within the specific category. The aim of this process is to guide the applicant and the competent authorities on their path to determine in detail the planned operation and the risks involved with it, all in the perspective of defining the required mitigation measures and conducting safe operations. The methodology is focused on assigning two classes of risk to a UAS operation (a ground risk class (GRC) and an air risk class (ARC)) and providing the operator with mitigation measures to potentially reduce them. These risk classes form the basis for the next steps which consist of determining the level of confidence that the UAS operation will stay within its boundaries. The efficiency of this methodology allowed the SORA to be endorsed by EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, as an Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) to fulfill the requirements of the European UAS Regulations.

The 10 steps of SORA

The SORA represents an iterative process of 10 steps that are the following:

  1. The Concept of Operations (ConOps)
  2. Determination of the intrinsic Ground Risk Class (GRC)
  3. Determination of the Final GRC
  4. Determination of the initial Air Risk Class (ARC)
  5. Application of Strategic Mitigations to determine the residual ARC
  6. Tactical Mitigation Performance Requirements (TMPR) and Robustness Levels
  7. Final Specific Assurance and Integrity Levels (SAIL) and Operational Safety Objectives (OSO) Assignment
  8. Identification of OSO
  9. Adjacent Area/Airspace Considerations
  10. Comprehensive Safety Portfolio

Specific guidance material (GM) was created to carefully guide users through these steps. This guidance material aims to simplify the process but is not always sufficient to support the applicant depending on their knowledge and background. If further guidance is needed, applicants have the possibility to reach out to companies such as consulting firms, which specialize in helping them deal with their applications.

Do you want to know more about SORA? Sign up to our SORA training today here!

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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