Safety & Risk

Not having human life on board an RPA makes a big difference to safety and risk considerations.  Manned aviation safety has evolved over the last hundred years or so with the main focus on preserving human life on board the aircraft.  This meant that any risk of incident, either with other air users or with terrain or bad weather had to be mitigated to the required extent - to an acceptable level of risk.  This means not only that the airworthiness of the aircraft has to be to a very high standard but also that the risk to other airspace users and people on the earth’s surface is very low.  The majority of manned aircraft, once they have received safety certification, are authorised to fly in most environments, such as over centres of population.

Since there is no risk to human life on board an unmanned RPA, the risk assessment focuses on the risk to other airspace users and those on the surface.  The risk in remote areas with negligible air traffic and terrestial population density is therefore hugely lower than in the proximity of a major commercial aviation hub in a densely populated area.  The operational risk for an unmanned RPA is a function of the RPAS and, crucially, the operational environment (which includes many factors).  This enables optimising RPAS for specific operational scenarios delivering not only the required level of safety but also economic efficiency.  The greater the operational risk, the greater the safety mitigation required from the RPAS.

Deliberate High Risk Operations

With no human life on board, RPAS may be used to fly the RPA into places which are involve very high risk, beyond that acceptable for human life.  There are many such operations such as exploring/monitoring extreme weather, close-up fire-fighting and monitoring volcanic eruptions.

Further Reading

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