Study: Most UAS Accidents Caused by Technical, Not Operator, Errors

A new report claims that technical problems, rather than operator errors, have been behind the majority of consumer drone accidents over the last decade.

Researchers Dr. Graham Wild and Dr. Glenn Baxter from Melbourne, Australia-based RMIT University’s School of Engineering, along with John Murray from Perth, Australia-based Edith Cowan University, completed an examination of more than 150 reported civil incidents around the world involving unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The study shows that technical problems were the cause of 64% of the incidents, which occurred between 2006 and 2016.

Wild says their findings illustrate the need for further airworthiness requirements for UAS, as well as mandatory reporting of all accidents or incidents.

“Understanding what happens to drones, even those that don’t cause damage to people or property, is essential to improve safety,” he says.

Recently published in the journal Aerospace, the study finds that in most cases, broken communications links between the pilot and the drone were the cause of the incident. The researchers say this finding calls for the introduction of commercial aircraft-type regulations to govern the communications systems.

“Large transport-category aircraft, such as those from a Boeing or Airbus, are required to have triple redundant systems for their communications,” Wild explains.

“But drones don’t, and some of the improvements that have reduced the risks in those aircraft could also be used to improve the safety of drones.”

Wild says more robust communications systems – even on cheaper UAS – could help prevent accidents.

“Drones are being used for a wide range of tasks now, and there are a lot of day-to-day activities that people want to use them for – delivering pizzas and packages, taking photos, geosurveying, firefighting, and search and rescue,” he adds.

“It’s essential that our safety regulations keep up with this rapidly growing industry.”


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