The recent news article in the Examiner Live (https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/official-report-calls-ban-drones-20641274) about a drone that failed in mid-flight and plunged 70ft to hit the ground, when a ‘member of the public was 10 meters from where the aircraft landed’, calls for greater restrictions in drone use.
So just how safe are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s)?
A recent article on the sUAS website (https://www.suasnews.com/2020/11/dji-you-already-knew-drones-are-safe-heres-more-proof-by-the-numbers/) boldly claims that ‘drones are the safest form of aviation ever known’. The article ‘does the maths’ and using figures from the US in 2019, the shoes that “in more than 10 million flight hours, not a single person died from a drone flight. Unlike other forms of aviation, the accidental fatality rate for drones is zero.”
The Civil Aviation Authority has a very clear and strict set of rules relating to the use of UAV’s in the UK. Apart from checking that the drone and any components are in good working order before a flight is undertaken, other rules include:
1) The drone must be within the operator's sight at all times
2) The operator is responsible for avoiding collisions with other people or objects
3) The drone must not be flown in any way which could endanger people or property
4) It is illegal to fly drones over congested areas such as streets, towns or cities
5) Stay well clear of airports and airfields
6) Do not fly drones within 50m of a person, vehicle, building or structure, or overhead groups of people at any height
These rules are very important and need to be understood and adhered to. If they are, drones pose no threat to the general public or users. However, it is when the operators of the drones don’t adhere to the CAA rules, that drones can then become dangerous. Importantly, though, the fault does not lie with the UAV, but with the operator of the UAV. An irresponsible operator left in charge of a drone, could cause problems.
At Networx3 UAV, we take safety very seriously. We will be obtaining an Operating Safety Case (OSC). This allows drone pilots to operate outside Standard Permissions from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It requires additional investment in training and with the OSC in place, we will be exempted from some of the restrictions highlighted and allow us to expand the potential and boundaries of our drone flights, and our operations, and improve the effectiveness of missions.
UAV’s are constructed with safety in mind. Plastic propellers are used rather than carbon fibre, for example as plastic is far less likely to damage the skin and propeller guards are often also fitted to reduce the risk of damage. Electronic safety measures such as fuses and emergency cut-off switches are recommended to prevent electrical fires when a drone motor stalls or draws a high current after crashing.
Drone accidents have happened, and injury’s do occur in the UK and around the world. However, 99.9% of all injuries that occur can be put down to the fact that the operator was flying the UAV without consideration to the close proximity of individuals to the drone – operator error.
Drones when flown within the rules, and in the right hands, are extremely safe, and they only become dangerous when they are not.