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Opinion piece on reporting incidents and accidents in the drone sector

19 September 2017

This is an opinion article and does not aim to blame or to call people out but to raise awareness over the importance of reporting incidents and accidents in our industry and to encourage a discussion over how reporting is done, how it can be improved and encouraged.

The main purpose of reporting in our industry is less about blame and more about finding ways to better our practices and how well we can run our industry. Through reports of incidents and accidents, our industry gains knowledge and insight over matters that might not seem urgent in just one case but perhaps occur more likely across the industry. In terms of commercial UAVs, our industry is still a growing and emergent one and drones are becoming more important in the commercial and business sector. With more people getting involved, it is growing more important that our industry can keep track of incidents and accidents involved with UAVs since one accident could cause issues that affect the whole industry in a worst-case scenario.

It is high expected that most who have come from professional UAV backgrounds like aviation, military or have been trained from the beginning to report incidents often when the occur. It might seem bad for business to report accidents or incidents due to the fears of how it might look for your business or to your employers however these fears should not be too common. The idea of the reporting side of our industry is more to keep an eye on practices and procedures that drone operates are allowing and doing. Reports are not intended to affect day-to-day flow of work but rather the greater trends. Through monitoring these trends, our industry can grow to ensure that all work is carried out in a safe and professional manner.

Another thing about the UAV industry is the efforts we have undergone to create a ‘No Blame Culture’. This is a culture created on the positive belief that everyone involved in a business and industry never intends on doing a poor job but to work hard. Despite the want to work hard, sometimes incidents or accidents happen but these are not seen as faults of the employee but rather the practices or methods of the corporation. Employees are encouraged to be more outspoken about accidents and mistakes so everything can be made better. It can help foster employee loyalty and efficient problem solving due to openness and have plenty of data and events to fall back on for knowledge over matters and incidents. Members of the UAV industry have certainly been pushing for this yet this practice can be damaged and if this culture is at threat, we all risk losing out. This leads to the idea of those who don’t understand this practice or come from another background outside the prior two professional backgrounds.

Newcomers are new to this industry that have from other commercial backgrounds might not understand the importance of reporting and may neglect it, affecting our No Blame Culture. We’re at 3 AXIS-UAS are not imply that this is done but it is to the detriment of all if it is occurring. It is important we hold newcomers and those of other backgrounds who might not know the importance and the standard of reporting that our industry is involved with. It should be our duty to ensure that reporting from them does occur. This speculation of course but how often has the actions of the few affected an industry? How often can we, as an industry, use the defence of they knew no better? It is important for us all and in a way our duty as well to ensure that reporting is done by these newcomers to our industry. Arguably this could easily be solved through better education through training and course. Reporting is not a hard task but it could easily be worked on to be perfected by members of our industry.

These are just some of the worries though and perhaps they are unfounded but 3 AXIS-UAS cares about the industry in both the general perception of it as well as the legal one. If work by a few is unsafe or some procedures cause harm from any groups and this becomes the main way our businesses will be seen, then it will affect everyone involved.

Formally, most UAV operators and businesses would have been used to using MOR which was the standard for reporting and was not used as a method of blame or liability. As of right now however, this has been replaced by the EC Occurrence Reporting www.aviationreporting.eu There is a clear effort to make reporting easier and less like a hassle. It can be expected that if it was difficult that people might avoid it and the Reporting Portal has made efforts to make it easier for the user. Another useful site is ECCAIRS http://eccairsportal.jrc.ec.europa.eu/index.php?id=2

This has been more of an opinion piece that what has commonly been seen by us at 3 AXIS-UAS but this is a matter we are deeply interested in and want to see developed because it doesn’t just help our business but our industry. A healthy industry allows for healthy growth for us all.

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