1.6. Drone incident response plan

Drone accidents have the potential to cause great damage and responsibilities and reporting requirements need to be clear at all times and for all types of accidents.

Important risk factors to consider are related to the size of the drones (weight, fuel) and the payloads being used. Drones with combustion engines and fuel tanks on board pose an additional set of risks. Drones are known to have caused forest fires in the past.

Another important consideration are legal incident reporting requirements. Reporting incidents is a very sensitive matter, since civil aviation authorities might have to or choose to investigate and this can lead to significant repercussions if laws or regulations had been violated. In some countries there might be a legal requirement to report incidents to more than one authority (e.g. FAA and NTSB in US).

Accidents can also be caused by payloads dropped at the wrong place or blown by the wind to unintended places.

Local legislation might require the scene of accidents (e.g. the drone wreck) to be left unchanged until the investigating authority approves a clean-up.


  1. Necessary actions are not taken or taken too late and so unnecessarily increase the damage caused by an accident.
  2. Senior staff is not informed timely and so has no opportunity to intervene and oversee the accident response.

Audit Steps

  1. Review roles and responsibilities in case of various accident scenarios.
  2. Validate the inclusion of contact details of emergency services as well as internal staff which needs to be informed in the case of accidents.
  3. Validate that pilots are aware of incident reporting requirements and respective timelines.
  4. Validate that incident reporting to authorities involves the legal department by default.


drone audit program index