SORA – Specific Operations Risk Assessment for Drones

The Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS) have released the first version of their guidelines on Specific Operations Risk Assessment – or SORA. The SORA document sets out a holistic approach to assessing the risks of both the operation and the system (drone).

You can download the SORA documents from here.

Who are JARUS?

Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems – or JARUS – are a group of regulatory experts from 52 countries (and a couple of EU institutions). Their purpose is:

“to recommend a single set of technical, safety and operational requirements for all aspects linked to the safe operation of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).”

What is SORA?

SORA is a methodology to assess the risks involved in standard drone operations. JARUS have opted to go for a holistic approach centred on the threats and harms that are associated with an out of operation situation. Such as, when a drone crashes. Or a drone goes out of visual-line-of-sight when it is meant to be kept in line of sight.

Overview of the SORA Process

There are 12 steps to the SORA process after you have checked to see if it is appropriate for your operation. The steps are:

  1. Describe your concept of operations.
  2. Determine what your drone’s initial Ground Risk Class (GRC) is.
  3. Modify your Ground Risk Class to take into account the harm barriers you have in place.
  4. Determine the lethality of your drone.
  5. Determine your Specific Assurance and Integrity Level (SAIL).
  6. Determine the Airspace Encounter Category (AEC) for where you will be flying.
  7. Prefiorm an initial Air-Risk Class (ARC) assessment.
  8. Establish your strategic mitigations.
  9. Assess what tactical mitigations are needed for your operation.
  10. Identification of the recommended threat barriers based on your SAIL number.
  11. Check the feasibility of your operation based on the above steps.
  12. Verify the robustness of the proposed barriers.

However, it is not a compleat solution. There are two sides to this. First, the many of the Annexes are blank, reserved for future content.

Second, the SORA process does not tell you how to implement the barriers to threats and harms or how to meet the robustness requirements it recommends.

But, despite its current flaws, the SORA is a sensible and usable document. It will take a few different people or companies use it and provide feedback before it will be fully compleat.

They want your Feedback

It looks likes everyone wants to know your opinion on the future of drones (mostly around their regulation). First, there was the British Government who recently published the responses they got from a consultation. Then EASA (which is still open) and the BSI (which closed recently). And back to the UK Government for their Aviation Strategy.

However, the SORA is a little different. It is a final version of a document. What they want is your feedback on the use of it. I will be trying it on something soon.

Their feedback form can be found here.