2.3. Airworthiness of drones

Certification processes employed by civil aviation authorities for aircraft used in manned flight are typically strict and very thorough. In most countries civil aviation authorities do not have such systems in place for drones.

This means that companies have to take more responsibility for the airworthiness of the drones they use. The selection of reputable manufactures/dealers is one aspect. Careful inspections and test flights of new and modified drones are other precautions companies need to consider.

While in manned flights detailed and mandated rules and regulations determine the responsibilities for maintenance work and relevant sign-off procedures, for drones these systems are up to the company to design based on the results of risk assessments for drone operations.

Drone laws in many countries assign the responsibility for airworthiness to the pilot in command, who is required to conduct pre-flight inspections before each flight to determine airworthiness.

Since companies are responsible for the pilots they employ the ultimate responsibility for airworthiness rests with the company.

See the sections under Drone Maintenance and Repair for additional information.

Risks

  1. Injury and damage on the ground caused by malfunctioning or crashing drone.
  2. Loss of control and in-air collision with manned or unmanned aircraft.
  3. Damage or loss of payload (sensors, cameras and gimbals are often more valuable than the drone itself).

Audit Steps

  1. Review the system in place to ensure the airworthiness of different drone types as per their legal classification.
  2. Review the system in place to ensure the airworthiness of different drone types as per mission type.
  3. Review processes in place to ensure the airworthiness of drones when modifications to the drone are made.
  4. Review the processes in place to ensure that alerts and software updates from the manufacturer are acted upon.
  5. Ensure that drones are equipped with the required navigation and anti-collision lights.

 

drone audit program index