This article on the AOPA website is an excellent summary of the issues facing primarily DJI pilots. But the peripheral issues apply to all UAS pilots.
More information is supplied in the piece regarding two topics I’ve written about before. The most recent was the caution message out from the UK Civil Aviation Authority on Matrice 210s falling out of the sky.
In the AOPA article, Ben Kroll from Skyfire Consulting is quoted as saying, “Kroll said that other Skyfire clients had lost M210s to crashes, and “one of ours crashed” under similar circumstances. “DJI doesn’t even tell you when to replace a motor. Us on the manned side, we’re like, ‘What? That doesn’t make any sense.”
The good news is that a version of the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is coming for unmanned aircraft pilots to reporting safety issues. The ASRS system provides some immunity from FAA action against pilots who report safety issues. I would expect the UASRS system to follow similar guidelines.
While I had reached out to the Chula Vista Police pilots for more information on their operations, I never heard back.
Cape Productions was specifically unwilling to share more information on the flight operations with me to help answer questions regarding the COA they were talking about in this press release.
However, the AOPA article does manage to get some more details regarding the COA. We now learn a bit more how this very particular slice of airspace was determined to be safe for the Chula Vista Police Department BVLOS testing.
Jim Moore from AOPA says, “Kroll said the FAA staff who reviewed the application for beyond visual line of sight authorization spent more time studying Cape’s software, along with a MITRE study of airspace use drawn from all available aircraft operations data—radar and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) records sufficient to confirm that the airspace around Chula Vista Police headquarters is not heavily used by aircraft.”
That new information still supports my personal opinion that BVLOS flight is coming but people should not hope it is right around the corner. I talk about the underlying issues in this post.
The AOPA article goes on to say, “Chula Vista’s kind of a perfect test case,” Kroll said, but he added that safe BVLOS procedures here may not easily translate to cities with more crowded skies and shorter sight lines. Kroll said the idea was never to have Chula Vista police respond to calls in San Diego, or otherwise wind up in airspace that a human pilot cannot effectively monitor. “This is a stepping stone kind of a COA.”
And that’s the way we need to look at it but we can’t get all excited about BVLOS flight unless we can be confident software problems and motor failures are not going to cause our aircraft to fall out of the sky.