Avionics News December 2020 - 43

we are actually validating, that design is such that it is so
reliable it is not going to fail, that it is not going to fall on
somebody's head. So that's engine reliability and structural
reliability - (assuring) that things are not going to fail. "
" Some UAS may be type certificated as a 'special
class' of aircraft using tailored airworthiness requirements
that provide an equivalent level of safety to existing
airworthiness standards, considering the UAS and its
intended operation, " the FAA wrote in an email. " In other
cases, UAS may be certified using existing airworthiness
standards such as those for normal category airplanes or
rotorcraft. " The FAA also noted the certification timeline
will vary significantly based on the project, details, scope
and complexity. And if it is a modification to a UAS, the
focus will be on the new certification aspects.
Other issues addressed at the FAA UAS Symposium
included the need for safety education and a session on how
the National Transportation Safety Board investigates near
misses and collisions between drones and manned aircraft.
Bill English, investigator-in-charge at the NTSB's UAS
program, said midair collisions have been a risk in aviation
ever since the Wright brothers built their second aircraft.
" When we hear of an actual collision in flight between a
drone and a manned aircraft, we take that very seriously
and open an investigation, " he said.
English said the NTSB investigates reported collisions
and classifies them in an " informal myth-busters style
as confirmed (100% sure a manned aircraft hit a drone),
busted (disproved it was a drone) or plausible (not enough
evidence to be sure). "
So far, there have only been three 100% confirmed
collisions between a drone and a manned aircraft in the
U.S. These include an Army Black Hawk that suffered
damage to the leading edge of a main rotor in 2017 when
it hit a small DJI Phantom 4, a hot air balloon that suffered
little damage after being hit several times by a small
DJI Mavic drone in Driggs, Idaho, in 2018, and a small
drone filming a road race in California ran into an AS350
helicopter filming the same event in February 2020.
An Airbus AS 350 B2 AStar newsgathering helicopter
that was hit over downtown Los Angeles was also a
plausible but not proven case of being hit by a drone,
according to the NTSB. The helicopter's horizontal
stabilizer and tail rotor blade were hit, and an inspection
found scuff marks on the the leading edge of the stabilizer
and a small gouge in a tail rotor blade.
English described one example of an incident that was
" busted " in early August in which a Cessna 172 pilot flying
in the traffic pattern hit something. The aircraft suffered
substantial damage to the leading edge of one wing tip, but
no feathers or remains of a bird were found.

The airport manager and staff at the flight school where
the aircraft was based were convinced the aircraft had
hit a drone. No UAS operator had filed for a LAANC
authorization to fly a drone near the airport, and the NTSB
asked the school to take the wing apart and look with
a borescope for feathers or the remains of a drone. The
ground underneath the traffic pattern where the collision
occurred was searched, and investigators found a drone too
small to have done the damage involved. However, nearby
they found a 10-pound golden eagle with a broken neck.
The flight school then found golden eagle feathers inside
the wing while doing a borescope inspection.
While there thankfully have been very few accidents,
the FAA and the drone industry have a huge challenge in
providing safety education to a community that ranges from
aviation professionals to recreational users never before
involved in aviation. Anyone can go to a big-box store,
buy a drone, go home and launch it without even reading
the directions on how to use it. The drone operator may
not know the first thing about flying safety or the safety
culture the aviation community works hard to maintain, and
problems can crop up the minute the drone gets into the air.
Sean Cassidy, director of safety and regulatory affairs for
Amazon Prime Air, said in his presentation at the seminar
that he watched some kids unpack a drone, pull out a
cellphone and launch it. The next question they had was
" where did my drone go? " The small toy drone ran into a
tree near them and did no harm.
Cassidy said this clarifies what the Unmanned Aircraft
Safety Team is about. This is a government and industry
partnership formed along the same lines as the Commercial
Aviation Safety Team and the General Aviation Safety
Team. He co-chairs this team with the FAA's Jay Merkel,
who leads the FAA's UAS Integration Office.
Cassidy is a former Alaska Airlines pilot with 10,000
military and commercial flying hours. Prior to joining
Amazon, he was first vice president of the Air Line Pilots
Association and national safety coordinator. Merkel led the
FAA's effort to create the LAANC program in about a year.
Merkel and Cassidy got the program for UAST organized
during the government furlough working virtually.
The idea behind UAST was to get all the members of
the UAS community together, including recreational and
commercial, so the FAA could hear the voice of the operator,
and then create the best practices for everyone to use. One
tenant was UAS players could compete in the marketplace
but not on safety.
In an Air Traffic Control Association fireside chat
webinar with Cassidy and Merkel, Merkel said, " Unlike
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Avionics News December 2020

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