Unmanned Drone Operations Safety And Risks

In this blog, I am going to talk about the risk mitigations and overall safety aspects that are needed to be put in place in order to film a commercial drone flight safely and legally. This will take into account weather, airspace and obstructions that might be seen at the site where the drone commercial filming is taking place. This is something that the CAA put in place to make sure that all commercial operations were carried out safely and legally as some people think drones are unsafe and dangerous.

Risk Mitigations

In an ideal world, we would like for all commercial shoots to have zero risks. This, however, is far from the case and in fact, with every drone shoot, there will be risks involved. Reducing the risk to near zero would be time-consuming, expensive and nearly impossible. Us drone pilots, therefore, reduce the risks in the best way they can so that the drone video operations we do can be carried out. Risks at a site might already be there and visible or they can turn into last-minute risks which propose themselves during a flight such as third party infringement, a dog walker for example. A good example of risk mitigation would be putting barriers up around the site in order to stop third party infringements. This could be a temporary fix whilst you film your drone shoot.

Risk Assessment Matrix

The Risk Assessment Matrix is an easy to use table/graph which basically allows us to tell the seriousness of a hazard. It is based on the likelihood of it happening and the potential injury or damage it will cause. A catastrophic injury or damage with an almost certain risk of it happening will have a score of 25 and should be deemed unsafe and therefore should stop a flight from happening as the risk involved is too much. In an ideal world, the risks we hope for is something that is extremely unlikely to happen with insignificant damage or injury in the case that it did happen. Obviously different hazards pose different threats and scores.

Emergency Procedures

Alongside normal procedures, the pilot is also requested to carry out emergency procedures in the event of an emergency. Emergency procedures to need to be written before hands and then recalled from memory if ever to occur. This is due to the pilot not having the time to read through the procedures. These emergency procedures could include flyaways, Aircraft fire or collisions with obstacles.

Our flight planning process

So obviously our process starts off with the initial contact form the client followed by a quick site assessment just to get a quick gage of whether the flight looks feasible. This will then go to a more detailed flight planning assessment where I look at airspace and nearby aerodromes. This is simply a more complex reviewed carried out from my desk. After this has been finalised and deemed safe and legal we will then come out to the actual site so we can get a better look of what the site looks like and review any obstructions or obstacles that may not have been seen from Google Maps. Once this has all been done and everything seems okay we will then book in a date for the drone flight and shoot.

Final decision making

The go/no go decisions can be made before flights or during flights where risks and hazards pose great treats. The earlier the decisions are made the easier it is. These decisions should be made by the pilot and a judgement call has to be made whether the flight is achievable and able to be continued.

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