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Multi-Rotor Helicopters

Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) are on the threshold of a major explosion in design, operation and areas of deployment. Leading the way in this revolution is a style of helicopter best known as a Quadcopter or Multi-rotor Copter.

By Bob Young

In recent years, we’ve looked at several of the developments in UAVs (or now, officially called RPAs) and the technology used in these machines.

However we are now entering a new era in RPAs, driven by the fact that in the USA the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has been instructed by Congress to integrate RPAs into the US National Shared Airspace within 90 days for emergency services and by 2015 for civilian use. This is expected to result in an explosive growth in the use of RPAs.

Here in Australia, CASA, having originally led the world with an operational regulation (issued in 2002), is now working to bring an improved alignment between technology advances and aviation safety.

One outcome of the legislation (due early next year) is that commercial RPA “pilots” will need to be just that – licensed pilots. Some will only need an “RPL” ticket (Remotely Piloted Licence) but some classes of RPAs will need to be controlled by those with the equivalent of either private or commercial pilot’s license.

Fortunately, we believe that the fun police won’t be looking at small “hobby” quadcopters (which are referred to as SGMAs, or self-guided model aircraft).

RPAs? What happened to UAVs?

The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), the international aviation governing body, has recently “tidied up” their acronyms and have decided that the terms for
UAV operations are to be re-designated Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or RPA. Thus we have RPL (Remote Pilot License), RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) and so on. Over the years
we have gone from RPV to UAV to UAS and now RPA!

And don’t forget that CASA have decreed that only commercial aircraft can be called “RPA” – hobbyist models are to be called self-guided model aircraft, or SGMAs!

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