In Brief

  • Unmanned aerial systems pose multiple challenges to safety professionals both in their design and operations.

  • System design criteria must address design reliability, human factors and the operating limitations from a total system point of view to ensure airworthiness.

  • Careful deployment of certified unmanned aerial systems can help safety professionals improve safety.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have been flying in the U.S. for almost 80 years. However, commercial use of UAS is relatively new to U.S. workplaces; often, this use violates federal aviation regulations [K. Morris (FAA), personal communication, June 24, 2014]. UAS may be one of the most technically challenging and disruptive systems for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to integrate into the National Airspace System (NAS). The recent U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Report (Hampton, 2014) on these challenges is particularly noteworthy. Integrating UAS into the workplace is also going to be technically challenging for safety professionals. However, with sound risk management policies and effective system safety and security engineering, these devices can deliver safety advantages.

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