Drone Emergency Procedures

Drone Emergency Procedures

Heliguy detail drone emergency procedures in the UK for commercial drone pilots and hobbyists.

6 minute read

Knowing what to do in the event of an incident when flying your drone is paramount for all drone pilots. Having the correct emergency procedures in place can help you save a drone that’s undergoing a flyaway, prevent injury of a member of the public that enters your flying site and ensure an incident is properly reported, should they occur. Heliguy Insider will be looking into emergency procedures for commercial pilots, however, this information should also be known by hobbyists to increase drone safety. Emergency procedures should be documented in the Operations Manual of all commercial drone pilots. Keep reading for the process of what emergency procedures should be followed and examples of emergency scenarios.

Drone Emergency Procedures Process

Emergency procedures should be detailed as part of any commercial operator’s Operations Manual. Any potential scenarios that may occur should be detailed with what steps will be followed to ensure the safest outcome possible. These scenarios can then be grouped into sections to make it easier for you to keep track of. The following stages should be included with actions the pilot and crew will take: Potential Incident Title & Symptom(s) – For the title, name the scenario that may be encountered and detail what may be included in the specific scenario. Pilot Response – Include immediate action required by the pilot to reduce risk to a point that’s ALARP. Structure points with the highest to the lowest priority. Crew Response – Detail the immediate action of the crew to reduce the risk to the lowest point possible. As above, structure points from highest to lowest importance. Post Incident Action – Detail the requirements following the incident, again with a high to low priority. This will usually include the statement “Follow the incident reporting tool.” Emergency procedures should be specific to your individual aircraft. Keep reading to see examples of the format you can choose for your emergency procedures and the levels of information that should be included. DJI Matrice 210 in Flight

Example Emergency Procedures

The following gives two examples layout that could be included as part of a commercial drone pilot's Operations Manual. Three example situations have been included. Please note, all Operations Manual must be an original piece of work.

Example 1 - Loss of Aircraft Control

Flyaways are uncommon events that may occur due to interference with the aircraft. This example is based on a structured table with the highest priorities at the top.
Loss of aircraft control - Aircraft not responding to pilot’s control or the aircraft is operating independently from the pilot’s control.
Pilot Response
  • Change the aircraft’s Flight Mode to Attitude (ATTI) mode and try to regain control
  • If control is not restored, activate the aircraft’s Return to Home (RTH). Check whether the mode is functional and/or if the control of the aircraft has been regained
  • Turn off and on the controller and try to recover control of the aircraft
  • If safe to do so, attempt to power off the motors
  • If aircraft flyaway continues, note aircraft battery life, height, speed and heading
  • Inform the police via 999 and/or Air Traffic Control (ATC)
  • Maintain Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) with the aircraft for as long as possible
Crew Response
  • Clear flight area of all personnel
  • Retain VLOS with the aircraft for as long as possible
  • Await instruction from the pilot
Follow Up Action
  • If required, inform the emergency services
  • Follow the incident reporting tool
 

Example 2 - Pilot Incapacitation

Pilot incapacitation should be avoided at all cost by using systems such as the 'IMSAFE' model, however, incidents can occur.

Pilot Incapacitation

Pilot is unwell or unresponsive

Pilot Response

  • If able, warn the crew of your status
  • Check the area is clear and activate the RTH

Crew response

  • Follow the instructions of the pilot
  • If the pilot is unable to, ensure the landing area is clear and activate the RTH
  • Monitor the aircraft until it has landed and shut down before attending to the pilot

Follow up action

  • If required, inform the emergency services
  • Follow the incident reporting tool
 

Example 3 - Public Enter Flying Area

Prior to every flight, the pilot and crew should ensure the area is clear. Using signs and having spotter will help avoid public entering the flight location. Each stage of this flowchart model should be structured highest to lowest priority.

Public Enter Flying Area

A person who is not under the control of the pilot enters the flight location.

Pilot Response

  • If the individual is further than 30m from the landing site, the pilot should land immediately
  • If the individual is within 30m of the landing site, the pilot should select an alternate site to safely land

Crew Response

  • Immediately notify the pilot of the member of the public in the flight area
  • Inform the member of the public they’re in the flight area and request they remain in position to enable the pilot to safely land the aircraft
  • If required, assist the pilot with locating a new landing area with the required separation distance. Clearly guide the pilot to this location

Follow up action

  • If required, inform the emergency services
  • Follow the incident reporting tool

Suggested Topics

In addition to the three topics above, the following emergency scenarios may be applicable to your drone flight.
  • Contact with aircraft
  • Aircraft fire whilst in flight
  • Controller Fire whilst in flight
  • Aircraft structural failure
  • Aircraft loss of power – battery, motor etc.
  • Loss of GPS
  • Loss of frequency
  • Loss of aircraft lights at night
This list is by no means exhaustive of the issues you may encounter and should be developed to meet the situations you and your aircraft could face. DJI Inspire 2 in Flight

Incident Reporting

For both hobbyist and commercial drone pilots, you must report the occurrence of an incident or potential incident to the appropriate organisation. Incident reporting is vital to help prevent repeated incidents in the future and improve drone and general aviation safety. In addition to the various emergency services, there are three different bodies that incidents should be reported to. Deciding which agency to inform depends on the situation around the incident.

Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR)

The most common form of incident reporting for drone pilots in the UK is via the EASA ECCAIRS Portal - aviationreporting.eu. Details of MOR can be found in the CAP 382 and European Regulation 376/2014. All incidents should be reported which could be considered to endanger or have potential to endanger any aircraft, including your drone, any person or property. This includes all of the above examples we have discussed and other factors such as bird strikes etc. For a full list of what should be included, please visit the CAA’s website. New DJI Mavic Air in Flight

AIR Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB)

AAIB are a division under the UK government’s Department for Transport. They investigate aircraft accidents and serious incidents defined in the EU regulation 996/2010. For drone pilots, any serious injury, fatality or flyaway. needs to be reported via the AAIB contact telephone number.

UK Airprox Board (UKAB)

The UKAB are a board of aviation specialist from with civil and military aviation and air traffic control knowledge. Events should be reported to the UKAB where the pilot considers the aircraft to be too close to an aircraft to an extent where either aircraft’s safety could be compromised. This can be a wide range of distances and is not limited to a near miss. DJI Inspire 2 in Flight

Summary

Having the correct emergency procedures in place is vital for both commercial drone operators and hobbyist. It can be the difference between a crashed drone and even the safety of the pilot, crew or the general public. Following an incident or potential incident, reporting to the correct body can help improve safety for others in the future and may even prevent larger problems in the future. It may also be a requirement under EU and UK regulation, so should be done whenever it’s required. For more information on UK drone regulation, head to our previous Insider post here.
To discuss emergency drone procedures and incident reporting, or any DJI or Freefly product, please give one of our team a call on 0191 296 1024 or email us at info@heliguy.com.
Keep checking back to Heliguy’s Insider Blog for more announcements, insights into drones and, of course, the latest news from the drone industry.

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