Altitude Angel, the world’s foremost UTM (unmanned traffic management) provider, has today announced it is to launch the world’s first ‘just culture’ reporting system for drone pilots and operators.

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‘Just culture’ reporting system

Emulating the approach already successfully established in manned aviation, where Mandatory Occurrence Report (MOR) and Voluntary Occurrence Reports (VOR) are submitted following an incident, Altitude Angel is to establish a similar reporting system for drone pilots and operators to report an event.

At present, there is no industry-wide function for drone pilots and operators to report or register any unplanned event they or their drone are involved in. The result of this could mean similar instances being repeated again and again, which could be easily prevented if learnings are made at an early stage and widely shared.

Philip Binks, Altitude Angel, Head of Air Traffic Management, said: “The wider drone industry is behind manned aviation when it comes to reporting unplanned events and unusual episodes, but it doesn’t have to be so.  Safety will be key to ensuring the industry’s expansion, so we should take the lessons learned in manned aviation and adopt ‘just culture’ reporting across UTM.”

At present, drone operators are directed towards the CAA’s system for reporting occurrences, the same system and set of questions which manned aircraft pilots use to report incidents.  “The CAA’s reporting system has been designed for occurrences involving manned aircraft, which can require a great deal of technical and operational data, to be completed by experienced aviators,” said Binks.  “When compared to two passenger aircraft nearly colliding, a drone operator may feel their ‘little’ incident, accident or episode is not worth reporting in the same way, so they simply don’t bother.  But there are lessons to be learned in every instance which is why our system has drone users at its heart.”

fThe Altitude Angel reporting system will be an anonymous web portal where drone operators will be asked to fill in a small number of questions if they experience something unexpected.  Altitude Angel will collate the findings before making it available to the wider industry in order for each business segment to apply the appropriate learnings and improve safety.

Should the episode be serious enough to warrant a VOR submission, the drone pilot or operator will be redirected to the CAA website where it states ‘the purpose of occurrence reporting is to improve aviation safety by ensuring relevant safety information relating to civil aviation is reported, collected, stored, protected, exchanged, disseminated and analyzed. It is not to attribute blame or liability.’

Binks, who is leading the project on behalf of Altitude Angel, added: “Reporting an unexpected event is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for irresponsible or criminal behaviour, but it will allow considerate pilots and operators to learn from others and take measures to prevent, or at the very least vastly reduce, the chances of the same type of event happening again.  This responsible attitude to reporting can only reduce incidents and improve safety.”

The scheme, which will go live on today has the backing of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is the statutory corporation overseeing and regulating all aspects of civil aviation in the United Kingdom. “The CAA absolutely supports this work by Altitude Angel and anything which increases the safety of drone operations in the UK,” said Tim Johnson, CAA, Policy Director.  “It is vital the drone community benefits from the ability to share and learn from safety data as the rest of the aviation industry does.”

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