The ATSB has today released a research report into the safety of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or drones.
The report finds the number of encounters is increasing. While there have been no reported collisions between RPAS and manned aircraft in Australia, and given the variables, the potential consequences of collisions are not yet fully understood.
“Our report seeks to better understand the implications for transport safety associated with the expected continual growth in the number of RPAS in Australia,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said.
“We expect there could be a doubling in the number of RPAS in Australia by the end of 2017.”
About half of the 180 occurrences from 2012 to 2016 involved proximity encounters with manned aircraft. Over 60 per cent of all reported RPAS encounters (108 occurrences) occurred in 2016 (69 occurrences).
“Based on our knowledge of birdstrikes, RPAS collisions with high capacity air transport aircraft could lead to an engine ingestion in about eight per cent of strikes,” Mr Hood said.
“RPAS also have the potential to damage a general aviation aircraft’s flight surfaces (wings and tail), which could result in a loss of control.
“Similar to the impact from a large bird, collision between a RPAS and a general aviation aircraft’s windscreen poses a high risk of penetration.”
The operation of remotely piloted aircraft requires close monitoring as the popularity of these aircraft continues to rapidly grow.
Read the ATSB research report AR-2017-016: A safety analysis of remotely piloted aircraft systems 2012 to 2016