AUVSI Launches TOP – Trusted Operator Program for UAS

AUVSI has now given unmanned aircraft systems operators a way to increase their safety and boost their standing in the marketplace through today’s launch of the new Trusted Operator Program, or TOP.

Interest in becoming a commercial drone operator has been growing, but so far, from a regulatory perspective, there has been little available to allow an operator to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate competency or proficiency. While numerous training courses exist, there has been no industry unification for competency training or testing.

image of UAV AUVSI Launches TOP

AUVSI Launches TOP

“This affects the end users of drone-enabled services, as there was no clear mechanism to ensure that the customer is going to receive what they believe they are paying for,” says Tracy Lamb, AUVSI’s vice president of regulatory and safety affairs and chief pilot.

For example, “public safety agencies had no way of knowing the level of knowledge or experience of the volunteer remote pilots that offered to help in natural disaster and for search and rescue operations.”

AUVSI has worked with industry experts to create TOP, to raise the trust and acceptance of the use of unmanned aircraft around the world. TOP is a professional unmanned systems community initiative aimed at supporting industry accepted remote pilot standards and protocols, which will result in the safe and sustainable advancement of the industry.

Under the program, UAS operators will be able to achieve three levels of certification, each a series of checklists of practices, skills and competencies “that all professional remote pilots and operators should follow, no matter in what part of the world they operate,” Lamb says.

TOP uses a set of protocols from many relevant standards from such bodies as ICAO, ANSI, SAE, ASTM, NIST and others. It also includes aviation regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration, Civil Aviation Safety Authorities, Directorates General of Civil Aviation and others.

“There are many standards that are applicable to UAS operations,” Lamb says. “How do you know which ones to follow, and when do you follow them?”

TOP levels

All three TOP levels are aimed at both individual remote pilots and commercial UAS organizations. Each level of certification reflects the level of skills, qualifications, knowledge and safety protocols require to operate in different industries.

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