The principle of a ‘Just Culture’ is one that the manned aviation industry has taken some years to accept as normal working practice in its day to day operations. The principle is that if an operator flies within the regulations, performs commensurate with their training and experience and does not wilfully or negligently perform acts which cause injury, damage or death then they should be encouraged to share their experience free from official sanction. These lessons are then shared across the industry for mutual benefit.
It is a measure that is paying huge dividends in increasing manned aviation safety and one that the unmanned aviation community would do well to adopt.
There are cultural hurdles to overcome. A huge spotlight is currently on the unmanned sector with valid concerns about privacy and safety driving the future of public perception. To avoid the wrong sort of publicity which might affect their fledgling business an operator may be inclined to cover up any procedural or piloting errors which would signal any deficiencies in their operation. As human beings we are prone to error and our instinct is to keep quiet to avoid ridicule or punishment.
To put your ‘head above the parapet’ takes moral courage but should be the aspiration of any professional company or individual using unmanned aircraft in their business. One thing that you report may have the smallest benefit elsewhere in way you could never imagine. It is easy to think that you will not make a difference but how will you know if you remain quiet.
So put in place the reporting and support structure for staff within your organisation, openly encourage feedback and utilise what reporting mechanisms your National Aviation Authority (NAA) has in place. This doesn’t mean that you condone all actions but if they have acted honourably and legally and simply made a human mistake then your approach should be proportionate.
Strive to be professional and ethical in all that you do because a reputation of this nature can only increase your standing in the industries within which you operate and the unmanned aviation sector as a whole. At the very least see it as a sensible business continuity activity.
A wise person once said to me that the product of a fully functioning Just Culture are the unseen activities that happen as a matter of course every day. In essence, ‘what an organisation/individual does when something goes wrong and nobody is looking’.
So what do you do when something goes wrong and nobody is looking?
Craig is an experienced aviation professional with 28 years service in Air Traffic Control, Airspace Management and Unmanned Aircraft Systems. A training, certification and regulatory specialist, he has contributed to various UK CAA working groups on Small UAS and having undertaken both the RPQ-s and BNUC-S training and assessment process, he is an experienced UK CAA qualified Small UAS Flight Assessor. Within Skycap Craig is responsible for delivery of a comprehensive UAS operational capability to meet the strategic needs of the business.