The unthinkable just happened. Your drone has just malfunctioned and acted erratically before crashing into a tree. The aircraft is destroyed and everyone is standing around watching and pointing at you.
This is now definitely a bad day out! What should you do? How do you recover from such an occurrence?
First Things First
Has anyone been hurt? You may have to look quite some way from the crash impact site because modern carbon fibre blades rotate at high speed, can fly a long way and can lacerate because of their sharpness. If you do find someone who is injured, try to get one of your crew to administer first aid so you can deal with the important next steps. Extinguish any fires and make the scene safe in all respects. Take 10 seconds to compose yourself before making any decisions, an accident is an adrenalin fuelled situation and your thinking is accelerated. This is not a good thing once the action has stopped. Now you need to be able to analyse and make sound decisions. Ring your Accountable Manager who should tell you to cease all operations, and will possibly ground any other drones of that type, until an investigation is completed. Your team cannot get back to "Normal Operations" without the say so of your Accountable Manager.
Leadership is one of the pilot skills from Module 8 which you were taught on your Flyby Technology course. It is important that you follow a structure to the next set of events and give clear instructions to those around you, and in particular any team members in your charge. To be able to lead effectively you need space to do it, try to distance yourself from injects from the public, if any are getting involved, and delegate someone to deal with questions because you are going to need the broad perspective to handle this situation professionally.
Data Capture Electronic
Any reportable accident must be investigated and in the non-complex rotary wing category you will be doing that investigation yourself. You can only do that if you capture the right data. You will need to quarantine ALL of the products generated from your planning cycle, they will be needed to prove that you acted properly and in accordance with your Operations Manual (OM), and help you remain inside the Flyby Technology Just Culture. Don't panic, as long as you have acted without being negligent or reckless the regulator will be much more understanding.
The next task is to make sure that flight logs are NOT deleted. If it is found that a flight log has been deleted you immediately step outside of the Just Culture and it will be assumed you are trying to cover something up. Take lots of photographs of the site and snapshots of the flight controller screen. Make sure you photograph any damage to other people's property. You don't want a bill for something you didn't actually do. Ask if you can take photographs of any injuries so that a clear understanding of the incident can be reported.
Without discussing the incident or reasons why you think it crashed, or even what you saw before it crashed. If you have a team, ask them to write down what they saw....Remind them that it is what they actually saw and not what they think they must have seen. Then ask them to write down all of the steps they took in their duties leading up to the crash. If you are operating alone make sure you complete this step yourself, it is vital to have a contemporaneous account of the timeline. It is important as it will form the basis of any changes to procedures that you might decide to implement in the future. Eye-witness accounts are notoriously inaccurate. Do not take the observations too literally; accept that the true picture could be something quite different.
Don't rush this bit. If you are a Flyby Technology pilot ring us at the office, or send an email with your number to admin and we will endeavour to get a call to you as soon as we can. We will talk you through the next steps and check that you have captured everything. We will send you out our Form 1 which is an incident report form so you have a structure to your investigation. It is part of our Safety Management System which you have access to whilst you stay in the Flyby Standard.
We need to establish the cause and any factors which contributed to the accident...Like distraction. If you remember in your training we talked about the Swiss Cheese model. The investigation is aimed at finding out which layer or layers of those preventative measures failed. Be honest with yourself and open up to the idea that you may be criticised. That is ok! As long as you acted in good faith everything will be fine. People make mistakes and we need to be open and honest so we can eradicate a flawed process or behaviour.
Once you have found the cause, think about how that cause was allowed to happen. Most likely a new procedure is required in your OM. Before changing the OM, make sure you quarantine the old copy in case an investigation takes place from an external agency. Write an honest narrative of why the accident happened and don't come at it from the perspective of damage limitation. The people who will read the report are experts and will spot inconsistencies. You get enormous credit for being open and honest in this game. The regulator wants us all to learn from these occurrences and will not want people hiding details. It needs to act fairly and it will. Trust them. Your Accountable Manager can declare "Normal Operations" again at this point and/or will decide on measures that need to be taken to prevent such an accident in the future.
Then send in the Form 1 to us so we can check that your conclusion is sensible and accurate before submitting the report to the European Co-ordination Centre for Accident and Incident Reporting Systems (ECCAIRS). http://eccairsportal.jrc.ec.europa.eu/index.php?id=2Reporting . Go to that website and open FEATURES from the drop down menu. There it will say "Report an Occurrence" You then decide if you are reporting on your own behalf or on behalf of an organisation. We recommend you fill in the form OFFLINE. Select General Aviation and at some point in the form there will be a drop down for Aircraft Category. Select RPAS and complete the rest of the offline form using data from your Form 1.
It can take some time to recover confidence after a crash. It is important to get back flying as soon as you can. Go to the practice field and fly fly fly. If you have changed any procedures then go through them on a training flight; so that everyone can see that you are taking the event seriously, and that you do not intend to let a setback happen again. In your training we taught you to turn these setbacks into positives. Have a debrief about the crash and how you dealt with it. By following what you have just read, you can show your team that this process has just gone well. It went well because you were trained properly. It went well because you were open and honest and that allowed you to find the true cause. It went well because you now have a better operation than you had before. That is because you are a professional drone pilot!
It will be important to give your insurer as much information as possible and this method will ensure that they have enough detail to make their assessment. They will need all of the usual documentation but providing them with the products of this process will impress them. You will need to collect all of the debris for them to examine in some circumstances. Leave the site in the same condition that you found it before the accident.
This will go better if you practice it. In your OM it says that you will perform a practice crash once a year. This is a great idea. Record in the same way we have described and then store the results in case you get an audit. As you can see this is a complex situation and not something you can throw together at the last minute. It needs to be practiced. Flyby trained pilots are given the best chance of success in business. It is because our experience allows us to guide you through your role as a professional pilot. We hope we have stimulated a lot of thought for you and your organisation.