A look at the current and future risks, safety considerations, and regulations for drones

FARNBOROUGH, England – As part of the Farnborough International Show, the Farnborough International News Network (FINN) offered a multi-hall series of educational sessions, which covers major topics and trends affecting the aerospace industry today and going forward.

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VenetzFARNBOROUGH, England – As part of the Farnborough International Show, the Farnborough International News Network (FINN) offered a multi-hall series of educational sessions, which covers major topics and trends affecting the aerospace industry today and going forward.

One such topic was the safety, risk, and regulations surrounding drones, which was presented at the Innovation Theatre in Hall 3. The speakers were Anthony Venetz (pictured above) and Joji Waites from Across Safety Development, a UK-based company that specializes in aviation risk management, providing operations safety cases, consulting, training, and software to regulators, military, and civil operators, airports, airlines, ANSPs, MROs, and manufacturers.

First, Venetz provided an overall look at the rapidly-expanding drone industry and a number of use cases, including innovative new applications, many of which involve beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) applications.

He provided a look at the staggering amount of accidents involving drones, which has steadily risen each year—extrapolating for 2018—since 2014. He then cited some computer model-based collisions, which showed that drones caused significantly more damage than birds. The point of all this being the fact that the more drones that are deployed into the skies, the higher the risk of accidents.

To put into perspective the regulations involving drones and the growing industry, Venetz offered a quote:

"It has not always been easy to administer the regulations so as to secure the safety of the public without handicapping the expansion of [the industry]."

The problem with this quote, he pointed out, was that it was from F H Sykes, the first Controller General of Civil Aviation Air Ministry from 31 October 1919.

Waites then offered his presentation, echoing the sentiment that, the higher the level of risk involved, the more requirements are involved.

Within the UK, Waites explained, that current UK drone regulations are categorized by recreational drones (hobbyists), commercial (business purposes), and private/non-commercial (not for recreation or flown for business, but without any remuneration or other valuable consideration being involved):

For commercial operations, permission is required from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), including for standard permission (commercial operations, drones less than 7 kg or less to be operated in congested areas under VLOS. Evidence of pilot competence and operations manual required. Non-standard permission covers all other types of flight and addresses operations with increased operational risk (BVLOS). An operating safety case is also required. Additionally, he described a number of the prerequisites for operating an unmanned aircraft involving aircraft mass. Essentially, the larger the aircraft, the more regulations are in place.

Looking forward, he mentioned that European Aviation Safety Agency regulations are coming into force. These are being put into place to provide a safety framework whilst allowing industry to innovate and grow and take into account the risk to people on the ground and other aircraft, as well as privacy, security, and data protection issues. They also define the technical and operational requirements for drones, as well as pilot qualifications. The regulations will require certain drone operators/drones to be registered and combine product and aviation legislation, while allowing flexibility for EASA member states, where allowed. Waites also provided a look at the differences between the EASA drone regulations and the UK regulations, to show how things will be different in the future.

Additionally, from 30 November 2019, small unmanned aircraft operators operating aircraft with mass of 250g or more must be registered with the CAA, and remote pilots will be required to undertake a competency test if flying SUA with mass of 250g or more.

Also mentioned during the presentation was the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS), and the specific operations risk assessment (SORA) method they use. Fifty-five counties, EASA, and EUROCONTROL have collaborated to develop a single set of requirements for integration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). It aims to “provide a methodology for the guidance of operators of NAAs on whether an operation can be conducted in a safe manner.”

SORA, it was explained uses a bowtie-style diagram to create a risk class number for drone operations for both air risk class and ground risk class, and the scoring system creates certain thresholds for risks and safety.

View more information on Across Safety Development.

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