DVI Aviation is a Leader in Drone Accident Investigation
DVI Aviation has experienced Drone Pilot Experts that have experience flying Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in regions throughout the world. DVI’s Drone Experts understand the challenges of piloting an aircraft via telemetry instead of being in the actual cockpit.
DVI’s UAV Experts understand how to investigate a drone accident or crash. Often times it is important for the Drone Expert to determine if the UAV crash was caused by telemetry interference or a mechanical failure of a part. The investigation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle accidents requires knowledge of drone design and system architecture, manufacturing processes, maintenance, and material analysis. DVI’s Drone Accident Investigation Experts have experience designing, fabricating, and test flying drones.
DVI has developed a one-of-kind Drone Accident Investigation Training Course. The Drone Accident Investigation Course includes the analysis of ASTM Drone Design Standards, drone piloting requirements, human factors related to piloting drones, drone maintenance, limitations of telemetry and onboard sensors, failure analysis, radar analysis, and the effects of weather.
Common causes of Drone crashes can include:
- A limited ability to detect and avoid trouble: Drones are not equipped with radar or anti-collision systems that would prevent a mid-air collision with other aircraft.
- Pilot error: Flying a drone requires the same amount of training and proficiency as flying a real aircraft. Drone pilots can succumb to many of the same errors committed by pilots in an actual aircraft.
- Mechanical defects: Unlike FAA certificated aircraft, drones are currently not required to meet any safety or reliability standards.
- Unreliable communications links: Drones are entirely dependent on radio transmissions for control. Currently, drones are not required to have any type of back up or safe mode that autonomously lands the drone safely in the event of an interruption of control telemetry.
FAA Drone and UAV Safety Analysis
The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute conducted a review and analysis of unmanned aircraft (UA) accident data. In the FAA report, Drone and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle accident data were collected from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. One conclusion apparent from the data reported by the FAA is that, for most of the systems examined, electrical and mechanical reliability play as much or more of a role in the accidents as human error. Mishaps attributed at least partially to aircraft failures range from 33% (Global Hawk) to 67% (Shadow) in the data reported here.
The report stated an improvement in electromechanical reliability will probably come only through an increase in the cost of the aircraft. However, a reduction of human errors leading to accidents might not necessarily entail increased costs if suggested changes can be incorporated early in the design process.
In the systems analyzed, human factors issues were present in 21% (Shadow) to 67% (Predator) of the accidents. These numbers suggest there is room for improvement if specific human factors issues can be identified and addressed. In that regard, it is important to note that many of the human factors issues identified are very much dependent on the particular systems being flown.
For example, both the Pioneer and Hunter systems have problems associated with the difficulty external pilots have in controlling the aircraft. For both of these systems, the majority of accidents due to human error can be attributed to this problem. The design of the user interfaces of these systems are, for the most part, not based on previously established aviation display concepts. Part of the cause for this is that the developers of these system interfaces are not primarily aircraft manufacturers.
Another reason is that these aircraft are not “flown” in the traditional sense of the word. Only one of the aircraft reviewed (Predator) has a pilot/operator interface that could be considered similar to a manned aircraft. For the other UA, control of the aircraft by the GCS pilot/operator is accomplished indirectly through the use of menu selections, dedicated knobs, or preprogrammed routes.
These aircraft are not flown but “commanded.” This is a paradigm shift that must be understood if appropriate decisions are to be made regarding pilot/operator qualifications, display requirements, and critical human factors issues to be addressed. If the aircraft is commanded to begin taxiing, there should be information available regarding the intended taxi speed. If the aircraft is being handed off from one station to another is being handed off from one station to another, the receiving station personnel should be aware of what commands will be transmitted to the aircraft after control is established.
Interface development needs to be focused around the task of the pilot/operator. For most of these aircraft, that task is one of issuing commands and verifying that those commands are accepted and followed. Understanding this task and creating the interface to support it should help to improve the usability of the interface and reduce the number of accidents for these aircraft. This is especially important as these aircraft begin to transition to the National Airspace System (NAS), conducting civilian operations in among civilian manned aircraft.
Utilization of Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
The United States military could see tremendous potential in their UAV’s. Initially, the drones were utilized as surveillance aircraft, but as time went by the UAV’s were operated to remove the risk to aircrews by providing a low-cost alternative fighting machine. Since the drone removed the “human sacrifice” factor, it quickly became the preferred method for tactical support. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles not only provided strength to the military with its armed and unarmed design capabilities, but the UAV’s supplied search and rescue missions with greater capabilities aiding people and saving lives. It is no surprise that drones are finding use in various civilian operations. Here are some uses for drones by police and commercial operations:
- Gather intelligence and tactical support
- Search and rescue support
- Observe traffic and public behavior
- Monitor drug trafficking across the borders
- Precision agriculture
- Photography, journalism, and film making
- Track and protect endangered animals
- Environmental monitoring
- Disaster relief efforts
- Sporting events
- Inspecting of oil rigs
- Package delivery system
- Weather and environmental research
- Tracking tropical storm data
- 3D mapping
Drones and UAVs Flown as Model Aircraft
Recreational use of airspace by model aircraft is covered by FAA Advisory Circular 91-57, which generally limits operations for hobby and recreation to below 400 feet, away from airports and air traffic, and within sight of the operator. In June 2014, the FAA published a Federal Register notice on its interpretation of the statutory special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The law is clear that the FAA may take enforcement action against model aircraft operators who operate their aircraft in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. In the notice, the FAA explains that this enforcement authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.
ASTM Unmanned Aircraft Systems Design Standards
ASTM International Committee F38.02 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems covers all of the major facets of certification, including design, construction, operation, and the requirements addressing inspections and maintenance. Their publication is an important step in the FAA’s certification of drones for commercial operations in U.S. airspace. Shown below are some of the ASTM standards that are being developed for drones and unmanned aerial vehicles.
- ASTM F2851-10 Standard Practice for UAS Registration and Marking (Excluding Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
- ASTM F2584-06 Standard Practice for Maintenance and Development of Maintenance Manuals for Light Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)
- ASTM F2585-08 Standard Specification for Design and Performance of Pneumatic-Hydraulic Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Launch System
- ASTM F3002-14a Standard Specification for Design of the Command and Control System for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).
- ASTM F2512-07 Standard Practice for Quality Assurance in the Manufacture of Light Unmanned Aircraft System
- ASTM F2908-14 Standard Specification for Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM) for a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)
- ASTM F2849-10 Standard Practice for Handling of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Divert Airfields
- ASTM F2911-14e1 Standard Practice for Production Acceptance of Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)
- ASTM F3005-14a Standard Specification for Batteries for Use in Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)
Latest News: FAA Proposes Rules For Commercial UAV Use.
On Sunday (2/15/15), the FAA unveiled proposed rules that would permit commercial operation of unmanned aircraft. Anchor Lester Holt said on NBC Nightly News (2/15, story 5, 2:30, Holt) that although unmanned commercial UAVs are currently banned, with the FAA proposal, “they’re one step closer to getting permission to fly now.” Correspondent Tom Costello reported that, under the rules, drones “would only be permitted to fly during daylight hours, under 500 feet at 100 miles per hour or less and five miles away from airports.” In addition, pilots “would have to maintain constant visual contact with their drones and be required to hold a new FAA flight certificate.”
In a story posted on Sunday before the proposed rules were released, TIME (2/15, Vella) reported that an economic analysis describing the rules “was posted online by mistake, the Associated Press reports.” TIME noted that while the report “does not offer a total estimate on the annual economic benefit of new drone-friendly rules,” it “claims they would exceed $100 million.” Reuters (2/15, Scott) also reported briefly on the proposed rules.
Bloomberg News (2/15, Levin) called the announcements from the FAA and the White House “the most significant attempt so far to set a framework for controlling a new technology that has at times evolved faster than the government was able to react,” and quoted Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx as saying, “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation.” The Washington Post (2/15, Whitlock) noted that in a conference call on Sunday, Foxx told reporters, “We’re putting forward what we believe to be the safest possible approach at the moment, but of course we look forward to hearing back from the public.”
The Washington Times (2/15, Wolfgang) noted that in 2012, Congress directed the FAA “to integrate drones ... into the national airspace by September,” and even with the announcement on Sunday, “the agency remains behind schedule.” Nonetheless, the Times adds, “the proposed rules begin to offer a degree of clarity that had been missing.”
The Los Angeles Times (2/15) reported that FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said that drones “will in some cases be able to perform tasks without putting lives at risk, as when manned aircraft [are] forced to fly over dangerous terrain or in bad weather,” and the Wall Street Journal (2/15, Nicas, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) reported that Huerta said in a conference call that the proposed rules would “provide probably the most flexible regime for unmanned aircraft 55 pounds or less that exists anywhere in the world.”
The AP (2/16, Lowy) quoted Huerta as saying, “We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules. ... We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.” Huerta noted that the FAA “is researching technology that he hopes will eventually enable small drones to fly safely beyond the sight of operators,” and is “looking ahead to how larger drones might be allowed to fly in airspace shared by manned aircraft, for example.” The Washington Post (2/15, Whitlock) reported in a front-page story that Huerta “said the agency’s gradual approach to adopting regulations was designed to enhance safety, despite pressure from the drone industry to move faster,” telling reporters, “We need to do this in a staged way that ensures the highest levels of safety, because that’s what people expect.”
AFP (2/15), the NPR (2/15, Neuman) “Two Way” blog, the Dallas Morning News (2/15, Wilonsky), and other media coverage also covered the story.