Military, Products

FAA Plans Drone Safety Team

By James T. McKenna | May 6, 2016

The FAA aims to set up a joint team with the industry this year to track and analyze the safety of commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and recommend measures for mitigating specific weaknesses, R&WI learned this week at the Assn. of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International annual gathering this week in New Orleans.

Photo by Mark Colborn

Photo by Mark Colborn

The team would be modeled on the agency/industry Commercial Aviation Safety Team, whose work since 1997 has contributed to dramatic improvements in airline safety in the U.S. and throughout the world. That model has been extended to general aviation (through the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee), and the International Helicopter Safety Team has adopted a similar approach.


That approach is built on collecting data on operations, accidents and incidents, then analyzing that data to identify the biggest safety threats. That analysis would then be used to prioritize the allocation of resources to mitigate those threats.

The difference is that the new team would undertake that data collection and analysis very early in the development of the civil drone industry in the U.S. The airline, general aviation and helicopter efforts could draw on decades of operational and accident investigation data (though the quality of that data varied widely and still does).

The commercial drone safety team would be able to work with fresh data on operations generated by FAA reporting requirements contained in Section 333 exemptions under which such drones operate. The collection of incident and accident data might be more challenging.

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