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Thu, Oct 25, 2007

NTSB Adds To Laundry List Of UAV Safety Recommendations

Come In Response To CBP Predator Downing

UAVs are much on the collective minds of the National Transportation Safety Board this week. One day after publishing a list of recommendations for all unmanned aerial vehicles operating over the United States (A-07-65 thru A-07-69,) the Board added another 16 recommendations targeted specifically at the US Customs and Border Protection Agency.

As ANN reported, CBP operated the Predator B that crashed April 25, 2006 near Nogales, AZ... prompting the Board's first-ever issuance of a Probable Cause report on a UAV accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that the US Customs and Border Protection:

  • Require General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., to modify the unmanned aircraft system to ensure that inadvertent engine shutdowns do not occur. (A-07-70)
  • Require General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., to modify the unmanned aircraft system to provide adequate visual and aural indications of safety-critical faults, such as engine-out conditions and console lockups, and present them in order of priority, based on the urgency for pilot awareness and response. (A-07-71)
  • Review the US Customs and Border Protection's methods of developing lost-link mission profiles to ensure that lost-link mission profile routes minimize the potential safety impact to persons on the ground, optimize the ability to recover the data link, and, in the absence of data-link recovery, provide the capability to proceed to a safe zone for a crash landing. (A-07-72)
  • Following completion of the action requested in Safety Recommendation A-07-72, require that pilots be trained concerning the expected performance and flightpath of the unmanned aircraft during a lost-link mission. (A-07-73)
  • Require that the unmanned aircraft system be modified to ensure that the transponder continues to provide beacon code and altitude information to air traffic control even if an engine shuts down in flight and that the pilot is provided a clear indication if transponder function is lost for any reason. (A-07-74)
  • Review all unmanned aircraft system (UAS) functions and require necessary design changes to the UASs that the US Customs and Border Protection operates to ensure that electrical power is available for an appropriate amount of time to all systems essential to unmanned aircraft control following loss of engine power. (A-07-75)
  • Develop a means of restarting the unmanned aircraft (UA) engine during the lost-link emergency mission profile that does not rely on line-of-sight control, for example, through an autonomous capability in the unmanned aircraft system's control system or through use of control functions enabled via a backup satellite communication system available to the pilot on the ground. (A-07-76)
  • Participate in periodic operational reviews between the unmanned aircraft system operations team and local air traffic control facilities, with specific emphasis on face-to-face coordination between the working-level controller and unmanned aircraft (UA) pilot(s), to clearly define responsibilities and actions required for standard and nonstandard UA operations. These operational reviews should include, but not be limited to, discussion on lost-link profiles and procedures, the potential for unique emergency situations and methods to mitigate them, platform-specific aircraft characteristics, and airspace management procedures. (A-07-77)
  • Require that all conversations, including telephone conversations, between unmanned aircraft (UA) pilots and air traffic control, other UA pilots, and other assets that provide operational support to UA operations, be recorded and retained to support accident investigations. (A-07-78)
  • Identify and correct the causes of the console lockups. (A-07-79)
  • Implement a documented maintenance and inspection program that identifies, tracks, and resolves the root cause of systemic deficiencies and that includes steps for in-depth troubleshooting, repair, and verification of functionality before returning aircraft to service. (A-07-80)
  • Require that aviation engineering and maintenance experts oversee the definition of maintenance tasks, establishment of inspection criteria, and the implementation of such programs. Also, ensure oversight of contractor(s) implementing such programs. (A-07-81)
  • Develop minimum equipment lists and dispatch deviation guides for the US Customs and Border Protection's unmanned aircraft system operations. (A-07-82)
  • Assess the spare-parts requirements for US Customs and Border Protection's unmanned aircraft operations to ensure the availability of parts critical to unmanned aircraft launch, as defined by the minimum equipment list requirements. (A-07-83)
  • Revise US Customs and Border Protection's pilot training program to ensure pilot proficiency in executing emergency procedures. (A-07-84)
  • Require that a backup pilot or another person who can provide an equivalent level of safety as a backup pilot be readily available during the operation of an unmanned aircraft system. (A-07-85)
  • Develop a safety plan, which ensures that hazards to the National Airspace System and persons on the ground introduced by the US Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operation are identified and that necessary actions are taken to mitigate the corresponding safety risks to the public over the life of the program. The plan should include, as a minimum, design requirements, emergency procedures, and maintenance program requirements to minimize the safety impact of UAS malfunctions in flight, continuous monitoring of the CBP's unmanned aircraft operation, analysis of malfunctions and incidents, and lessons learned from other operators of similar UAS designs. (A-07-86)
FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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