Well done to the confidential human factors incident reporting program (CHIRP) and in particular editor Rupert Dent. We need lots more of this in the drone industry. The constant improvement in the CHIRP report says to me that perhaps the RPAS world is starting to grow up.

A relevant read wherever you are.

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Some sample text

The British Model Flying Association

“BMFA” have their own safety reporting system that is well accepted by their community of flyers and is actively used.

During the period July to October 2021, there were 24 MORs and, following a review of the reports, it can be seen that at least 6 had clear Human Factors as a contributory element. One repeat occurrence was unintentionally flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (a total of 14), with the result that the aircraft was
lost. Here are three separate reports

for example:

A. I think I must have started “flying another member’s model” when I was momentarily distracted after about 15 seconds before I realised that what I thought was my model wasn’t. By then my model had
disappeared from view.

The unmanned aircraft flew beyond visual line of sight and was not found

B. Whilst flying my trainer aircraft at the same time as another member was flying a very similar model I got confused and followed the wrong aircraft.

By the time I realised what had happened I was unable to locate my model in the sky. A search was made of the area, which was fruitless, but the model was returned by the owner of [the local garage] after it landed in his car park. No damage was caused to any vehicles, the only damage was to my model which had a damaged engine mount .

The unmanned aircraft flew beyond visual line of sight and was recovered

C. Flying a EFX racer. flew through the sun and lost sight of plane. Did not regain site of plane and plane was not found.

The unmanned aircraft flew beyond visual line of sight and was not found

 CHIRP Comment 

On our first review of the reports submitted to the BMFA by its members, we noted that a few of them mentioned that following an initial event the aircraft ended up flying beyond visual line of sight and then becoming lost. Some were found again some were never recovered.

Our analysis of these occurrences is straightforward. In an environment where multiple aircraft are all flying within the same area, some of which will look very similar, a moment’s distraction and mistaking one aircraft for another is an easy trap to fall into. Using new radio equipment with a Failsafe mode to cut power, can make recovery of the aircraft much more likely when unintentional BVLOS flight occurs.

In a few of the instances cited, loss of situational awareness resulted in the wrong aircraft being mistakenly followed and flown. Situational awareness can be improved by operating at a distance relative to the size of the UA, the weather conditions (visibility) and within the visual limitations of the remote pilot’s eyesight. It is also important to maintain a clear background behind the UA to ensure it is easy to see at all times. If the UA were to be flown low in front of a tree line, it is easy to lose sight of it, and if another UA were to then appear above it, it is quite conceivable that the remote pilot assumed that UA was the one they were flying and got confused.

By Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.