A Post-Accident Analysis of Civil Remotely-Piloted Aircraft System Accidents and Incidents

Graham Wild, Kellie Gavin, John Murray, Jose Silva, Glenn Baxter


A sample of 152 accidents and incidents involving Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, more commonly referred to as “drones”, have been analysed. The data was collected from a 10-year period, 2006 to 2015, conveniently sourced from a limited population owing to the scarcity of reports. Results indicate that safety occurrences involving Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) have a significantly different distribution of contributing factors when sorted into distinct categories. This provides a thorough and up-to-date characterization of the safety deficiencies specific to RPAS. In turn, this contributes to the development of adequate safety management systems applicable to the RPAS sector. The majority of RPAS occurrences involved system component failures which were the result of equipment problems. Therefore, airworthiness instead of pilot licensing needs to be considered first when regulating the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System industry. “Human factors” and “loss of control in-flight” were found to be the second most common “contributing factor” and “occurrence category”, respectively; Remotely Piloted Aircraft pilot licensing will help reduce the probability of these secondary occurrences. The most significant conclusion is that reporting systems must be implemented to address RPAS accidents and incidents specifically, such that more useful data is available, and further analysis is possible facilitating an improved understanding and greater awareness.


RPAS; UAS; UAV; Accidents and incidents; Aviation safety

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