UAS Safety Risk Portfolio and Analysis

The analysis in this paper seeks to identify the main safety risks involving Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations.

The Key Risk Areas (Outcomes) identified from the data were:

  • Airborne Conflict: The number of near-miss occurrences between drones and aircraft has increased significantly is the past 2 years. There have been a small number of collisions between drones and GA aircraft, thankfully with no fatalities or injuries so far. However, it should be noted that many of the reports of near-misses with UAS are uncomfirmed and might in fact involve other objects such as birds. Indeed, some of the reports of near-misses with UAS have occurred at altitudes where UAS are not normally able to operate.
  • Aircraft Upset. The 2nd Key Risk Area identified involved Aircraft Upset, which covers the full range of Loss of Control situations, which presents the potential for injuries to people on the ground.
  • System Failures. Both System/ Component Failure Powerplant and Non-Powerplant feature in the outcome types and therefore is also included in the Key Areas as it could also lead to injuries to people on the ground, especially in certain types of UAS operation.
  • Third Party Conflict. The final Key Risk Area covers the risk of UAS conflicts (collisions) with people or property (i.e. not involving aircraft) where they may cause injuries or damage. There were no occurrences involving such damage or injuries but expert judgement identified this as a key risk area that could occur through causes not associated with loss of control (Aircraft Upset) or technical failure in situations where a drone operator accidentally flies into people or property.

The purpose of this paper is to identify the Key Risk Areas (Outcomes) and Safety Issues in UAS operations to form the basis of the UAS Safety Risk Portfolio.