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Aviation Investigators Unload on DJI Drones

Aviation Investigators Unload on DJI Drones

I’ve been saying for a long time now that the problem with the current crop of drones flying in public safety is that since they have not obtained an Airworthiness Certification, they are not built to any standard greater than a toy.

In writing about some recent drone accidents, I came across this statement by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

“Despite their use in commercial operations, it is acknowledged that many small UAS fall into the category of consumer electronics, which are not required to be certified and have product life cycles much shorter than those of manned aircraft.”

This is the first time I remember that a government aviation authority has come out and said this so clearly.

The report’s Safety Recommendation is stated as “It is recommended that DJI introduce an effective system for providing timely technical support to State safety investigations.”

This resulted from the poor ability of DJI to provide post-crash analysis and assessment to assist the investigators.

In the case of the ParaZero accident where DJI-approved staff worked on the aircraft before the flight, the report states, “The UAS manufacturer advised that it is sometimes necessary to remove hardware associated with parachute systems when aircraft are repaired or serviced. It stated that its repair staff are not qualified on such external elements and cannot therefore guarantee the airworthiness of such external systems after repair.”

That leads to a logical conclusion that a DJI drone fit with any aftermarket part can’t be determined safe to fly.

This has become a growing issue following a series of DJI Matrice 200 series aircraft accidents involving ParaZero parachute systems. We had a report of one here that I covered in detail. See DJI Matrice 200 V2 ParaZero – Accident – 2020-10-09 – Analysis

You can see the new published reports here and here.

Another AAIB accident investigation report showed the issues that can be related to manufacturing by an experienced company that demonstrates poor manufacturing quality.

More specifically, the drone was not designed or constructed to meet any airworthiness standards. You can see past posts on the importance of aircraft achieving an Airworthiness Certification before being safe to fly.

About Steve Rhode

Steve is an experienced and certificated UAS pilot and aircraft instrument-rated pilot. He is also the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy. He is also a member of the FAA Safety Team.

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