In the continuing effort to promote safety as Job #1, the FAA and NASA have created an Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) for remote pilots flying uncrewed aircraft, further building upon previous work done to establish the NASA voluntary safety reporting system for manned aircraft. Since it was established more than 45 years ago, NASA has collected more than 1.7 million manned aircraft aviation safety reports, enabling the agency to analyze a wide variety of hazardous occurrences and provide guidance to prevent other pilots from making similar errors. These safety enhancement techniques have proven effective over decades of manned aviation experience and can now be applied to the explosive growth of unmanned aviation in support of a safer national airspace system (NAS). Since unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and UAS remote pilots far outnumber manned aircraft and pilots, there’s a clear need to get the drone community more involved in understanding unsafe operations and mitigating risk.
Traditional ASRS is a valuable, non-punitive tool that identifies issues and allows the community to share lessons learned through voluntarily reports by manned aircraft pilots. That same system has now been formatted and is available for UAS pilots to report unintentional rule violations, close calls, and other safety-related incidents. Just as its manned counterpart is constructed, the UAS ASRS is designed to improve safety by encouraging self-reporting in order to educate others of the requirements, hazards, and pitfalls inherent to flying in the NAS.
Anyone involved in a UAS operation, including remote pilots, visual observers, or other crew-members, can file a NASA ASRS report. Reporting is confidential and identifying information such as names, dates, or times, is de-identified, removed, or generalized before the report is entered into the NASA database. The database is maintained by NASA, not the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA does not use the reports for enforcement action unless there is an accident or criminal offense.
In general, the FAA is lenient with pilots who self-report violations, understanding the willingness to self-report as evidence of a constructive and positive attitude and a desire to help prevent future violations by the reporter and others. As an incentive, the FAA allows reported unintentional rule violations to be non-punitive if reported within 10 days. Users can file as many reports as they wish, with the caveat of only one rule violation, such as straying above 400 feet above ground level without a waiver, or flying into controlled airspace without authorization, every five years. The report form and additional information can be found at https://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/uassafety.html. However, when a violation of 14 CFR comes to the attention of the FAA from a source other than a report filed with NASA under the ASRS, the Administrator of the FAA will take appropriate action.
UAS operators, remote pilots, and crew-members should utilize the new UAS ASRS to inspire themselves and the entire drone industry to monitor safety issues, identify lessons learned, and further understand that voluntary aviation safety reporting is in everyone’s best interest. It’s up to all of us to safely share the sky.