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Risk assessment and management for drones

This article covers the risk assessment and management of drones, including everything you need to know to stay safe.
ticking off a checklist

The strategic risk assessment process relevant to RPA operations includes:

Hazard identification

Common hazards for RPAs

The most common hazard when operating an RPA is the likelihood of your drone crashing into someone or something. Drones will crash.

For this reason, it is essential that your flight planning process includes an identification of objects and people you could potentially crash into.

drone ops from above

These will vary according to the mission you are planning to fly, however, even flying in clear weather in accordance with the SoCs, as a minimum you need to identify:

  • Buildings
  • Trees and other plants
  • Bodies of water
  • Geographical attributes (cliffs, hills, embankments)
  • Traffic that could move through your flight plan
  • Animals
  • People presently in or near your flight plan and people who could potentially enter into your flight space during the flight.
  • Powerlines and power infrastructure
  • Weather and wind

Identify the hazards

Of course, the existence of hazards does not automatically mean you should cancel your flight. It is extremely important however that you identify the hazards and have in place measures to detect and avoid the hazards.

Avoid the hazards

The first part of avoiding hazards is to make sure your drone is not itself a hazard. Your pre-flight checklist must include a thorough inspection of the drone to ensure it is functioning and airworthy.

This includes checks on the airframe, batteries and drive train. You also need to check your controller is functioning correctly.

Observe the flight path

Once you have pre-flight checked your drone and the airspace requirements, you should thoroughly observe the flight path to identify potential hazards and ways of mitigating them.

Your flight plan must then be updated to include the hazards and how you intend to avoid them. This may often be done implicitly through the flight path and navigation system, however, you need to continuously monitor the environment for changes that present new hazards during the mission.

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Drone Safety for Managers (UK)

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