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Analyzing Hazards in UAS

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Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis (HIRA) is a collective term that encompasses all activities involved in identifying hazards and evaluating risk at facilities, throughout their life cycle, to make certain that risks to employees, the public, or the environment are consistently controlled within the organization’s risk tolerance.

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Many beneficial civilian applications of commercial and public small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in low-altitude uncontrolled airspace have been proposed and are being developed. Associated with the proliferation of civil applications for sUAS is a paradigm shift from single-UAS visual operations in restricted airspace to multi-UAS beyond visual line of sight operations with increasing use of autonomous systems and operations under increasing levels of urban development and airspace usage

Ensuring the safety of sUAS operations requires an understanding of associated current and future hazards. This is challenging for sUAS operations due to insufficient mishap (accident and incident) reporting for sUAS and the rapid growth of new sUAS applications (or use cases) that have not yet been implemented. These applications include imaging, construction, photography and video, precision agriculture, security, public safety, mapping and surveying, inspections, environmental conservation, communications, parcel delivery, and humanitarian efforts such as delivery of medical supplies in developing nations.

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Likelihood is defined as the estimated probability or frequency of a hazard’s effect or outcome. Quantitative allowable probabilities for manned airplane hazards are taken from the various FAA system safety Advisory Circulars. (FAA (2011) It should be noted that these are not exact values; the requirements for the allowable probabilities indicate an order of the listed value

The allowable probabilities for small airplanes differ from other aircraft by several orders of magnitude. At this juncture, it is not clear if sUAS using rotors will be held to a higher standard than fixed wing UAS. A safety risk management analysis must always assess the risk of the worst credible outcome. However, other possible effects should also be considered, particularly if their higher likelihood of occurrence could lead to a higher risk. (Maddalon, J. M., Hayhurst, 2013).

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Given these points, the final Key Risk Area covers the risk of UAS conflicts (collisions) with people or property (i.e. not involving aircraft) where they may cause injuries or damage

There were no occurrences involving such damage or injuries but expert judgement identified this as a key risk area that could occur through causes not associated with loss of control (Aircraft Upset) or technical failure in situations where a drone operator accidentally flies into people or property.

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FAA (2016). FAA Safety Management System Manual, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Organization, Department of Transportation. Washington D.C., USA.

Belcastro, Christine M., Newman, Richard L., Evans, Joni K., Klyde, David H., Barr, Lawrence C., and Ancel, Ersin, “Hazards Identification and Analysis for Unmanned Aircraft System Operations,” Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations (ATIO) Conference, AIAA-2017-3269, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, June 2017.

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