Risk mitigation is a top concern for corporate drone programs. Drones can capture great data, and they can often improve safety on the job site. But drones also come with a few inherent risks of their own.
Risk factors for drones include more than just the potential for a crash. They also involve who’s piloting the drone, where it’s flown, and how the data is collected. Skyward’s software and professional services are designed to help companies assess key risk factors before takeoff.
To keep risks to a minimum, here are a few questions that should be part of a corporate drone program’s risk assessment.
1) Who is flying your drones, and are they qualified?
An enterprise may have a team of drone pilots scattered across the country in various business units, flying many types of aircraft, with each site managing its own pilots. But this management model may result in low accountability. If your company’s pilots are flying unsafely or without a remote pilot’s certificate, your company may be exposed to big fines — up to $32,666 for each incident, with the possibility of additional sanctions.
To be licensed, commercial drone pilots need to pass an exam from the FAA in accordance with Part 107, the federal rules for commercial drone operations. And pilots need to renew their knowledge currency every two years.
Certification is a requirement, but just because a pilot is certified to fly doesn’t mean they’re qualified. A pilot can get certified without having ever touched a drone. Go above and beyond by requiring hands-on flight training, proof of basic flight skills, or a minimum required number of flight hours before flying missions for your company.
Skyward strongly recommends having a system for verifying pilot certifications and performance. Skyward’s Drone Management Platform helps companies track pilot certification statuses and get insights on every mission, even when teams are spread across the country.
2) Are your drone pilots flying only when and where they’re allowed to?
Drone pilots need training to be able to determine the proper airspace, times of day, and weather to fly in. But training alone can’t help a pilot determine whether it’s safe to fly. They’ll also need tools to check the airspace and other conditions.
A drone airspace map is essential. Airspace conditions can change quickly. Just because you could fly on a particular site one day doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to on the next. A drone airspace map like Skyward’s can help you see airspace conditions before and during your flight. And you can submit a request through Skyward to access controlled airspace via the FAA’s LAANC capability.
You can also log your flight to Skyward for later review. That way you can assess where the drone was flown and whether the flight complied with altitude restrictions, no-drone zones, local laws, and restricted airspace.
3) Is your drone registered and your equipment in good working order?
Every drone used for commercial purposes must be registered with the FAA. In fact, my coworker Mike Dach recently wrote about Part 107 drone registration requirements. The drone pilot must be able to show the registration document (digitally or physically) to any law enforcement officer who requests to see it.
Another key factor in overseeing corporate drone programs is making sure the company’s drones are well maintained. Drones are aircraft, and aircraft require regular maintenance. Pay attention to wear and battery health for improved reliability.
4) Have you considered drone data and cybersecurity risks?
Data security is important for many drone programs, especially when surveying secure sites or sensitive infrastructure. Think through what kind of information security requirements your company will need to put in place to secure your drone data.
Enterprises also need to plan for the large volume of data drones collect. How will it be processed and archived? How can you maintain accessible databases as they grow? What security protocols are needed?
5) How are you keeping up with new FAA rules in a fast-changing industry?
New technology tends to transform the ways things have always been done. Drones are no exception. As drones are pushing into new industries and use cases, regulations are continually evolving to keep up.
Be sure to keep up with the latest regulatory developments. For example, the FAA is rolling out requirements for remote identification of drones. While you may not be required to start complying today, these requirements could affect the type of drones you invest in for years to come.
Skyward provides resources on the latest regulatory updates, and we advocate with the FAA and various industry groups to ensure our customers can fly in more ways and in more places.
6) Do you have visibility into all aspects of your drone program?
You want your corporate drone program to be standardized and transparent. You need to be able to audit drone operations and records to spot possible liabilities. If there is a problem or accident, you need to be able to analyze the incident to prevent it from happening again.
These steps are so much easier when you have robust standard operating procedures and a single platform to manage your drone program. Skyward can help with both of these. Our Professional Services team offers a package of standard operating procedures that can be customized to a company’s needs. And our drone software platform helps streamline drone operations from planning to reporting.
The goal: keep drone risks low and rewards high
Running a drone program comes with some risks, but drones may be able to reduce corporate liability and improve workforce safety. Standardization, accountability, and good management go a long way toward improving drone safety.
Skyward’s Drone Management Platform is designed to help companies minimize risk in their drone operations. In fact, our drone risk assessment tool helps pilots and managers understand and record risk levels for every operation.
Interested in giving Skyward a try? Get a demo or a free trial today.