Having reviewed the 65 pages of the AAIB-25876 report in respect of the Alauda Airspeeder MkII owned by Riotplan Proprietary Limited trading as Alauda Racing crash on 4 July 2019 at Goodwood Aerodrome, the following comments are relevant:
1.There is reference to the commanders flying experience in hours, which included the last 90 days and the last 28 days. Are your records up-to-date?
2. The operators Operating Safety Case (OSC) contained several statements that were shown to be untrue. What does your OSC state?
3. In this case the CAA did not meet the operator or inspect the UA before the accident flight. Why not invite the CAA to inspect your platform so that you have it on record?
4. The CAA were not present at the test flight. Why not invite the CAA to attend the test flight?
5. The UA sustained damage to its landing gear as a consequence of loss of power on a test flight the day before the accident. Under the regulations, the OSC and the exemption provided by the CAA, this was supposed to have been reported, but was not. If in doubt, report?
6. Observing on the day in question, were two members of the CAA’s UAS unit, who were involved in assessing the operator’s application for exemption.
7. At the CAA UAS unit the section lead was a signatory on the exemption and he joined the CAA in May 2018. There have been numerous questions on resources that pertain to the CAA UAS unit. This is further endorsed by report which states “the CAA stated that the level of resources available meant it was not possible for the UA sector team to follow up every exemption.”
8. The CAA asked the Australian Civil Aviation Authority for further information, which does not appear to have been provided. However, the AAIB did ask CASA, and some information was provided. Does this mean that regulators will only correspond in the event of a serious incident? This is certainly going to become much more relevant for those drone operators that are operating in EU jurisdictions and how the EU intends to harmonise information in the future in order to allow drone operators to fly in different jurisdictions when qualified in another. It will be interesting to see how the UK intends to accept drone operators from the EU based upon UK regulations as these regulations may diverged in the future;
9. If you have a number of transmitters as part of your OSC that relate to redundancy, don’t leave them in the workshop!
10. The AAIB will appoint experts to examine certain aspects of the UA. In this case, experts were used to examine the circuit boards for compliance and specialist video forensic examiners using photogrammetry (interestingly from video, the expert was able to determine the UA’s heading, ground speed and altitude);
11. The AAIB compared this UA’s manufacture to EASA’s Special Conditions that relate to gliders with electric propulsion units and associated high-voltage batteries. In the event that there is an absence of regulation, comparisons will be made to other similar regulatory standards;
12. When writing mitigation measures for single points of failure, be mindful that if there is a failure in radio link communication that the UA will continue flying using its last known command. Interestingly, in this case there was no consideration on the effect of a kill switch not operating and that the hazard of a “flyaway” was not considered;
13. As a drone operator, do not state that your system has a return to home function when no GPS is fitted to the UA!
14. From an operator’s perspective, the operator in this case appears to make the admission that there was insufficient time and resources to adequately test and stabilise their equipment in unfamiliar surroundings. Additionally they stated that the team were all relatively inexperienced with aviation systems, procedures, required documentation and the need to formally understand and adhere to these processes. These are significant statements that underline the culture of an organisation in its approach to safe use of equipment and its emphasis on providing necessary training. Do your teams understand the legal obligations that relate to your operational authorisation and/or OSC?
15. As of August 2020, there are over 106,000 registered UA operators in the UK and over 45,000 operators flying model aircraft. That is a significant number of operators that require relevant training and understanding of their legal obligations;
16. According to the drones reunited website, the CAA state that most flyaways occur due to battery loss, poor signal, or a technology failure and some of this is also down to pilot error. It is essential that these aspects are covered in your risk assessment;
17. There are a number of amendments with respect to safety recommendations to CAP 722, which are:
This is a really useful case study for drone operators to consider. It certainly is a timely reminder to make sure that your operational safety cases and/or OSC’s are up-to-date and that all the staff that are involved in your operation are cognisant of their legal obligations with respect to the regulations, the OSC and the exemption provided by the Civil Aviation Authority. If you have any questions about this or any other legal issues, please email email@example.com