Building Safety and Security Cultures in a Drone World
Aviation is undergoing a global revolution. With advances in unmanned system technology that are moving at the speed of “Moore’s Law,” while their associated prices continue to fall, small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) have become high-tech, universally available tools. Coupled with advances in autopilots, telemetry, sensor and camera miniaturization, and corresponding increases in battery and engine capacities, sUAS’ are delivering capabilities that were once only the purview of nation-states, corporations, and wealthy individuals. Now, almost anyone can experience the advantages and thrills of aviation without ever leaving the ground, taking a flight physical, spending hours and considerable funds to hone their airmanship skills, or complete a rigorous and lengthy training and certification processes. As these barriers-of-entry to operating in the airspace continue to drop, the democratization of aviation will accelerate.
For the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry to achieve its full potential, hard work must be done by a multitude of effected stakeholders to build strong safety and security cultures. It’s true that UAS can make our lives better by helping us to imagine new, safer, ways to do jobs that are dangerous, dull, and dirty. They are also a terrific means to enhance commerce, save lives, gain new perspectives, and even to provide recreation. However, as with all revolutions, there are risks that must be mitigated in both the safety and security arenas.
This chapter reviews important safety and security concerns arising from UAS operations, by reviewing the traits of the good, bad and ugly UAS operator, and proposes that the U.S. military’s solutions to the important issues these operators pose are worth emulating. In the safety arena, data collection procedures for UAS operations are either non-existent or not mature enough to provide sufficient information to make informed safety and policy decisions. However, the U.S. military has extensive experience and practice with UAS and provides the best initial source of lessons learned for commercial UAS manufacturers, operators, and regulators to emulate. For example, military principles of risk management and safety management systems for aviation operations are “best practices” that should be adopted by commercial UAS companies. Likewise, the military already has a robust system for addressing aviators who cannot or will not follow the rules, which could be emulated in some respects by civilian companies. Finally, in UAS security, the military is on the forefront of thought-leadership in the counter-UAS arena. Military operational concepts of counter-air (find, fix, track, identify, observe or disable) and new legislative authorities should also be considered “best practices,” scalable to local governments that need to protect citizens, industries, and critical assets.
Building a culture of safety compliance in all facets of UAS operations is crucial to future use and innovation within this industry. Without the public’s confidence and support in the safety and security of these systems, it will be difficult to preserve, protect, or promote the overwhelming benefits that this rapidly expanding technology will bring for generations to come. Adopting lessons learned from years of military aviation experience can advance the UAS cause more quickly.
KeywordsUAS Unmanned aircraft system Safety Security Safety management system SMS Risk management Risk mitigation Hazard identification Safety culture Drone safety Military drone safety RPA Counter UAS Counter drone UAS security Drone threats Unsafe drone operators Aviation safety Aviation revolution Air force safety UAS integration Airspace UAV Unmanned aircraft vehicle
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