Chapter 8 UAS Accident Reporting

All UAS accidents, incidents and malfunctions must be reported. This differs from FAA requirements under 14 CFR 107 because the UC has other reporting compliance obligations that it must meet. A Designated Local Authority or the Systemwide Designated UAS Authority will make a determination if the accident, incident or malfunction requires further reporting with the appropriate regulatory body.

In data collected from September 2016 to March 2018, UAS accidents, incidents or malfuctions that resulted in non-minor UAS damage, injury or property damage were caused by evenly between human-factors or system malfunctions.

8.1 Common Accidents, Incidents or Malfunctions

Some of common UAS accidents, incidents and malfunctions that have been reported include:

  • Operator error resulting in collision with stationary object
  • Loss of Battery/Fuel
  • Fly-away/loss of control
  • Hardware malfunctions such as GPS interference
  • Improper `Return to Launch’ location
  • Improper assembly of vehicle
  • Experimental hardware/software
  • Hazardous weather conditions
  • Battery caught fire from puncture or impact

8.2 Exemptions

The following accidents, incidents and malfunctions are exempt from mandatory reporting, but are still welcome in post flight reports

  • Malfunctions related to payloads that have no impact on safety
  • Damage of components designed or expected to fail during regular use
  • Rough or hard landings that do not result in damage
  • Damage to the drone due to improper ground-handling/transportation

8.3 Near Misses

A near miss, also known as a close call or near hit, is defined as an unplanned event that did not result in injury or damage – but had the potential to do so. Typically, these events result from either unsafe conditions, arising from the work environment itself, or unsafe acts, arising from UAS activities. Reporting a near-miss can ensure that future incidents and injuries are avoided.

Example Near-Misses

  • Insufficient hazard analysis from utilizing out of date satelite imagery
  • Interations with non-participants or unaware university officials
  • Interactions with wildlife
  • Battery draining faster than normal

8.4 Accident Investigation

The Designated Local Authority or Systemwide Designated UAS Authority may initiate an investigation of a reported accident, incident, malfunction or reported near-miss situation. Any opportunity to better understand the root cause of a UAS accident is valuable. A process or procedure for accident investigation may be written into a location specific policy or procedure. Below are some general guidelines for conducting a UAS Accident Investigation (adapted from OSHA).

8.4.1 Incident Investigation Principles

  • Do not assign blame to the reporter
  • Remind everyone that the investigation is to learn and prevent, not to penalize
  • Ensure everyone’s narrative is heard

8.4.2 Process

  • Call or gather the necessary persons to conduct the investigation

  • Identify and gather witnesses (if applicable)

  • Collect facts

  • Collect a narrative from the RPIC and witnesses

  • Document the incident with photos and videos (if applicable)

  • Complete a report (if applicable)

    • Identify causes
    • Identify latent conditions
    • Identify corrective actions

8.4.3 Interviewing People

  • Use open-ended questions
  • State the purpose of the investigation is fact-finding, not fault-finding
  • Ask the individual to recount their version of the event
  • Ask clarifying questions to fill missing information
  • Ask the individual what they think could have prevented the incident, focusing on the conditions and events preceding the event.

8.4.4 Information to Collect

  • RPIC information

  • UAS information, including

  • Time of Day

  • Location

  • Potential visual obstructions, including

    • Trees,
    • Powerlines,
    • People or crowds,
  • Weather conditions, such as

    • Wind
    • Sun location
    • Clouds or Fog
  • Supervisor information

  • Potential witnesses

  • Corrective actions

  • Causal factors that may have played a role

8.4.5 Determining Causal Factors

Causal factors for an accident are rarely definitive and may be subjective. Some example causal factors to investigate include, but are not limited to:

  • Was there external pressures that may have contributed to the incident, such as weather, pressure from management, time-limits, etc?

  • Was the location a contributing factor?

  • Was the management or oversight procedures a contributing factor?

    • Consider administrative or engineering factors
  • Was equipment questionable but still used?

  • Was there a miscommunication within the operating team?

  • Were there any quick fixes/unplanned changes made in the field to complete the mission?