42 accidents, the majority of which resulted from the crash of drone for either technical reasons or due to loss of control
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has issued their analysis of the main safety risks involving Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) / Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) / Drone operations. The aim of the study was to better understand the safety risks posed by the growing use of UAS.
The study used occurrence data from both the European Central Repository (occurrences reported to NAAs of the EASA Member States) from 2010 to May 2016 and also from airlines involved in EASA’s Commercial Air Transport (CAT) Aeroplanes Collaborative Analysis Group (CAG).
From these occurrences there were 42 accidents, the majority of which resulted from the crash of drone for either technical reasons or due to loss of control. None of these occurrences involved fatalities or injuries.
The Key Risk Areas identified were:
Airborne Conflict: The number of near-miss reports between drones and aircraft has increased significantly is the past 2 years, though EASA notes that many remain unconfirmed. There have been a three collisions between drones and GA aircraft according to EASA, so far with minimal consequences. 63% of all occurrences were related to Airborne Conflict
Aircraft Upset. This covers the full range of Loss of Control situations, which presents the potential for injuries to people on the ground.
System Failures: These are included in the Key Areas as they could also lead to injuries to people on the ground, especially in certain types of UAS operation.
Third Party Conflict: This covers the risk of collision with people or property (i.e. not aircraft) that may cause injuries or damage. 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.
EASA has recently published their ‘Drone Collision’ Task Force report. This came out with the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1: The Task Force recommends that an analytical model of the drone threat should be developed that takes into account a more detailed analysis of the construction of drones and an assessment of the dynamic behaviour of drones and their components.
Recommendation 2: The Task Force recommends that a specific risk assessment should be conducted to assess the behaviour of lithium batteries on impact with structures and rotating parts, and their possible ingestion by jet engines.
Recommendation 3: The Task Force recommends that further research should be conducted to establish hazard severity thresholds for collisions between drones and manned aircraft. Impact analyses should be performed.
This is a very detailed document. EASA and the FAA both announced safety task forces in May 2016.
As in the US, it is difficult to confirm near misses, the famous Heathrow garbage bag incident is a classic example and no doubt part of the numbers. Given that 2016 only goes through 5/31, 2016 may well exceed 2015.
Note the call for collision testing which was just announced in the UK.