IATA advocates global approach to data security and commercial drones

MONTREAL _ The association representing the world’s airlines says developing a global approach to data security and the development of commercial drones will help to safely accommodate an extra 3.8 billion air travellers expected by 2036.

“What worries our airlines, and we’re working a lot on that, is to see that in terms of data protection, data management and privacy there are different regulations popping up (around the world),” International Air Transportation Association director general Alexandre de Juniac said Tuesday.

“Even for a reservation system in an airline, to have different data protection in Japan or in Europe or in Brazil is a nightmare.”

He told reporters at an IATA conference on safety and flight operations that it will first work to harmonize approaches regionally and then try to mobilize for an international standard.

De Juniac said there likely would be different approaches by the European Union, Russia and China.

“It will be complicated because things are moving so fast that I’m not expecting something very significant in a very short period of time.”

IATA is also keen to participate in the regulation of commercial drones.

The agency said it is supportive of a global registry for unmanned aerial vehicles that is being discussed by the International Civil Aviation Organization _ the UN agency that oversees civil aviation.

A spokesman said IATA would probably join the initiative if invited by ICAO.

Earlier, IATA vice-president Gilberto Lopez-Meyer went a step further, telling reporters that the airline group was proposing to have a joint ICAO-IATA sponsored world-wide registry.

“It’s going to be very difficult but it’s feasible,” he said of a global registry.

IATA is scheduled to meet with ICAO on Wednesday to discuss the initiative.

Instead of a patchwork of databases, a single registry would allow legal authorities to know how many drones are flying and require operators to be accountable.

The effort comes as safety concerns about drones have risen after mishaps with military and commercial aircraft, including the first verified collision in North America in Quebec City.

De Juniac said airlines are concerned about drones from a safety perspective and the focus on air traffic control is essential for their development.

Authorities have mostly banned the devices around airports, but a registry is needed as their use and number of airline flights are expected to grow, he added.

Drones were discussed at an international event hosted by ICAO last September. Another event is planned this fall for China.

De Juniac told conference delegates that experience has shown that global standards and best practices are vital to sustaining safety improvements.

He said aviation is seeing a significant disruption from tech giants including Amazon, Google, Uber, Space X and others. But no one knows the implications for airlines given what happened to other industries that were unable or unwilling to respond.

“We must always keep an open mind to innovation and change. The alternative is that others more willing to try new things will define our future for us.”