FAA Conducts Drone Study

Admin Flex Air News, UAV Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration performed a study on drone safety. The study is presented through a 195-page report. titled, “FAA UAS Center of Excellence Task A4: UAS Ground Collision Severity Evaluation.” The main area of extensive focus was on drone crashes and the severity of their impact on humans. At the beginning the report states there is “no classified or proprietary information in this report,” and distribution of the report is unlimited.

The study was conducted mainly so the FAA can establish safety precautions for flying drones over people. The report indicates that most of the injuries from drones were due to “penetrative injuries” resulting in lacerations. Other injuries were blunt object impaction resulting in trauma. The report states, “These injury types represent the most significant injury threats to non-participating crews and public operating.” The report also analyzed collision scenarios, particularly those that lead to death or permanent disability. The Probability of Fatality is analyzed and calculated to be determined by the size, type, load, weight, and velocity of the drones and where exactly it hits a person on their body.

In another section, the report determined, “The main fire concern for all UAS is ignition of a battery upon crash.” Although in the next sentence stated, “Battery fire hazards in a ground collision are poorly documented and require further research.” Next, the report noted that chemical injury is most likely to occur when spraying crops. Throughout the report there are many formulas, graphs, and charts analyzing vast amounts of data collected with over 300 total sources used in the report itself. The FAA released the study in late April to NASA for peer review. The study has currently been reviewed by the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Mississippi State University, and the University of Kansas. It was released through the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence. (Also known as ASSURE.) It represents 23 of the world’s leading research institutions and 100 leading industry and government partners.

The study came after pressure from the Obama administration. In an executive action, the White House said:

“This proposed regulation will become the framework for beneficial uses of drones near crowds, such as aerial photography or videography for news gathering; for certain types of infrastructure inspection; and other applications.”

This may be due to the FAA’s small unmanned aircraft rule, “The risk associated with flight over people is due to mechanical reliability issues that a remote pilot in command may have a limited opportunity to evaluate without airworthiness certification of a more extensive maintenance process. At this time, the FAA has no data establishing how that risk could be mitigated through operational constraints—whether performance-based or otherwise—other than a prohibition on flight over people.”

In last line of the report, the Executive Summary of the report stated, “Twenty-three knowledge gaps were identified during the execution of the literature search and are recommended for future research efforts.”

A second part of this study is set to begin in June to examine the risks of drones colliding with aircraft.