SORA Step 1: What is ConOps? – Operating concept

Dimitri Wolf Von Dimitri Wolf 2 Min. Lesen

If you are interested in the topic of SORA, you will very quickly come across the term ConOps. In this article, we’ll explain what it’s all about and what you should look out for when taking your first steps towards SORA.

You’ve probably already thought a lot about what you can do with drones. Now all you have to do is put this idea down on paper and voilà, you’ve already taken the first step in the SORA risk analysis you need to authorise that flight! Even the most imaginative application is not excluded as long as it can be described and the associated risk analysed. So of course the Open category only covers the tip of the iceberg of what is possible with drones.

Definition of ConOps

This “Concept of Operations” or ConOps description forms the basis of the SORA and the desired operating licence and should be as precise and detailed as possible.

The ConOps should not only describe the operation, but also provide an insight into the safety culture of the UAS operator (see good airmanship). It should also include how and when to interact with air traffic control organisations if relevant to the mission. Therefore, the UAS operator should adequately consider all steps, risk mitigation measures and OSOs when defining the ConOps.

ConOps and SORA

The SORA methodology provides a logical process for analysing the proposed ConOps and establishing an appropriate level of confidence that operations can be conducted with an acceptable level of risk. The ConOps focuses on the collection and provision of relevant technical, operational and system information required to assess the risks associated with the proposed operation of the UAS.

The development of the ConOps can be an iterative process so that as the SORA process is applied, additional risk mitigations and potential constraints may be identified that require the provision/updating of additional technical details, procedures and other information that must then be provided in the ConOps. This should result in the ConOps fully and accurately describing the planned operation.

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Structure of the ConOps

Of course, the whole thing must be put into a readable form in order to be able to submit the application to the competent authority. Annex A to Article 11 of the EU Drone Regulation provides a possible template for the associated document structure.

The ConOps document can usually reach a considerable size due to the required information described above (e.g. on operating procedures). By summarising the collected information, it also serves as an operations manual and thus as a SORA reference document for UAS operations.

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Nevertheless, the title ConOps often caused confusion, as it was often mistaken for a short description (often only one page) of the mission, which only contained the marginal data and not the comprehensive information for the operation. There is now a template, the EASA OM Template SAIL II, to simplify the compilation of information for an operations manual.

💡 Good to know: Of course, no ConOps needs to be created for the aviation authority for indoor missions. Nevertheless, it is very helpful for describing and understanding the mission and the associated procedures.

Dimitri is the founder of and has been working at skyzr since 2021. He has been fascinated by the topic of drones since 2016. When he is not flying a drone, he is responsible for planning and developing new concepts for the platform as well as writing and creating content. He is also responsible for the technical implementation and maintenance. His training as an IT specialist for system integration and his bachelor's degree in media informatics help him with this.
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