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Essential Flight Information: Key Data Points for Class C5 and Class C6 Drone Manufacturers

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In this article, we will discuss one of the requirements that Class 5 and Class 6 drones must meet to be certified. These drones are intended to be flown in the STS-01 scenario for a C5 drone and STS-02 for a C6 drone. Before diving into the details, let’s define what Situational Awareness is, a clear concept to understand this requirement:  

Situational Awareness in Drone Flight

For a pilot, situational awareness means having a mental image of the interrelationship between the drone’s location, flight conditions, configuration, and aircraft status, as well as any other factors that could affect safety. These include nearby terrain, obstacles, airspace type, and weather. To develop this awareness, the pilot must follow these steps:

1. Gather information from the environment.

2. Integrate this information with the pilot’s internal knowledge to create a mental picture of the current situation.

3. Use this picture to guide ongoing perceptual scanning.

4. Anticipate future events.

As you can see from the definition, a key element is information.

The information required for safe flight comes from various sources, but this article focuses on the information provided by the aircraft.

Human Machine Interface (HMI)

HMI stands for Human-Machine Interface and refers to a dashboard or interface that allows a user to communicate with a machine, software, or system, in this case, a drone.

HMIs display real-time data and enable users to control the device through a graphical user interface.

What Is the Purpose of an HMI?

Let’s take the example of a car. A car is a complex machine. The driver can control the engine, steering, lights, air conditioning, music system, and other elements. Interaction works as follows:

  • Speed is displayed on the speedometer.

  • Music, lights, and air conditioning are controlled through buttons or perhaps a touchscreen.

  • The accelerator controls the engine.

  • The steering wheel controls the direction.

Imagine being able to control all aspects of your vehicle and obtain detailed information about its operation on a single screen. Your car’s dashboard would be an HMI.

This is precisely what a drone’s control interface should provide: all flight-related information and elements necessary for control.

Designing a Drone's HMI

The design and construction of an HMI for a drone should be aimed at making flight operations safer, more effective, and more efficient. It should enable the pilot to detect, analyze, and respond appropriately in both normal and abnormal situations.

For this, it’s crucial that the manufacturer pays attention to critical aspects such as:

  • Colors and graphics

  • Dynamic elements

  • Types of warnings and alarms

  • Font size and typography

  • Sounds, messages, haptic feedback

  • Help information

  • Menu hierarchies

  • Screen navigation

And much more, all of which can make one drone safer than another with the same features but a poorly designed HMI.

In summary, an HMI that is easy to understand and provides clear options to end-users reduces errors and stress.

Flight Information for C5 and C6 Drones in STS-01 and STS-02 Scenarios

All the preceding information leads us to this point. According to regulations, drones with a C5 marking must provide the following information to the pilot clearly and concisely during flight:

    • Drone altitude above the surface or take-off point

    • Drone’s geographical position *

    • Speed *

*Only for C6 drones*

The manufacturer must provide this information in flight interfaces, following all best practices in HMI design to ensure that the operation is as safe as possible.


Confusion when a pilot checks the data provided by the flight interface could lead to an accident or incident with the aircraft.

For example, not displaying the unit in which the data is presented could confuse the pilot about the speed at which they are traveling, or an error in the reference system could make the pilot think their altitude is relative to the ground when it’s actually relative to the sea.