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


  • Graham Wild School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering RMIT University
  • Kellie Gavin School of Engineering RMIT University
  • John Murray School of Engineering Edith Cowan University
  • Jose Silva School of Engineering RMIT University
  • Glenn Baxter School of Engineering RMIT University


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


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.

Author Biography

Graham Wild, School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering RMIT University

Program Manager, Aviation
School of Engineering
RMIT University






Original Papers