So it's a massive subject right now; 'Are drones really safe?'
Well initially you'd have to say no! The thought of heavy machinery with spinning blades flying above us sound like recipe for disaster! Honestly, even if someone else flying near professional operators with a drone it's a cause for concern.
However, let's consider a little perspective. A commercial aircraft flies above our head at great speed and great weight, but we rarely give it a thought. When things are established as 'Safe', we don't tend to be less concerned about out welfare - we trust them. Drones are very new and sadly poorly controlled in the wrong hands, accidents easily find a place on front line media. We feel the key to being trusted flying drones is to make others feel safe around them.
It's obvious that commercial drone companies only fly within the limits that the training and Permission for Aerial Work from the CAA allows. Beyond this though, we find it's important to make the customer feel safe. For instance, we prefer using large machines that have a degree of redundancy in the number of motors. We find letting people around the site know we're filming, puts everyone at ease. And finally, letting the customer know what lengths we have gone to to make sure everyones safe goes a long way.
Nothing is more satisfying than a good job and others enjoying it too. Even if things were to go wrong, which they do, not necessarily in a bad way, just minor equipment failures, we alway
s find it's essential to explain why this happened. It's a bit like when you fly in a commercial airliner - When you hit a bit of turbulence and it's uncomfortable, the Pilot always informs you what it was so your put back at ease. We've found it similar flying big drones. When the customer understands whats happening, they are left to enjoy the experience. Let's face it, seeing big machine take to the skies feet away from you is always exciting!
When things do go wrong, it's vital that we react in a safe way. The seeming large cost of crashing a big machine is nothing to a human injury. You could liken it to a car when an animal runs out in front of you. The temptation is to swerve to avoid it, but in doing so you put far greater danger to yourself and passengers. Similar, as a last resort, if things go wrong with a drone...bin it. In the very rare occasion there's a catastrophic failure, we've trained ourselves to get the machine stopped.
Commercial operators will give thought to 'What if" scenarios to account for failures. Safety is crucial and goes hand in hand with planning.
It's safe to say then that drone safety begins with good, safe pilots, who operate under strict guidelines from the CAA. That's not the complete answer to our opening question. The airframe and it's capabilities are also a key factor here.
Drone manufacturer's are listening to everyones safety concerns and more and more safety equipment is being rolled out onto them. To commercial operators there are a number of redundancy systems that can be relied on if things ever go wrong. There's redundant motor systems, redundant flight controllers and redundant power sources. Some drones can even be equipped with parachutes. Now that's stages that are even beyond most bigger aircraft!
It's clear to see then, that drones are getting safer. But even now on the whole they are incredibly safe. Also it's important to remember that how they are used is a determining factor on how the public in general views them.
As a whole, the public are becoming more familiar with them and the future looks bright for this amazing technology. When everyone flies safely, trust in drones will be established.