As our highest cause of claims is due to pilot error, it is important that you as a drone pilot, are aware of the elements that can cause failure to perform to a satisfactory standard. Within this blog post we will be discussing the main mechanisms of human performance that can change a flight drastically – being made aware of these factors may reduce the risk of having to make a claim!
Lack of Communication
Poor communication is one of the highest contributing factors in accident reports. Communication refers to the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other channel. The issue is that the information may be unclear or inaccessible and the person receiving the information may make assumptions about the meaning of this information. As a result of this, the person providing the information may assume that the message has been received and understood. It is common that with any verbal communication, only 30% of messages are received and understood correctly.
We recommend that any detailed information that needs to be passed between yourself and your team that is complex, should be written down. For example, log books, checklists and worksheets are useful resources to use. Verbal messages can therefore be kept short. As the remote pilot, always give your team the chance to ask questions before a flight so that no assumptions are made.
Complacency can arise when conducting a routine activity that has become habitual which may be considered as a comfortable and safe process. It is therefore important when conducting routine and habitual tasks to maintain an adequate, or optimum, level of stress through different simulation. For example, always expect to find a fault! If you follow written instructions and adhere to a procedure, this increases vigilance and concentration. It is important to avoid working from memory and assuming that something is okay when you have not checked it, a pre-flight check list is therefore a great document to always have to hand!
Lack of Knowledge
Aircraft systems are complex pieces of equipment and it is therefore vital that pilots have gone through the substantial and necessary training in order to operate safely. Furthermore, lack of on-the-job experience may lead to pilots misjudging situations and making risky decisions. As drone systems continue to develop, pilot’s knowledge and experience with the product may quickly become out of date.
It is important that you, as a pilot, undertake continuous professional development and that you share your knowledge with other colleagues within the industry. Checklists and CAA publications are good methods to follow and refer to so that assumptions are not made and that you are not relying on memory.
Psychologists say that distraction is the number one cause of forgetting things, hence the need to avoid becoming distracted and avoid distracting others. Distraction could be anything that draws a person’s attention away from the task on which they are employed. Some distractions that you as a drone pilot may occur are unavoidable such as loud noises, somebody entering your operational field or perhaps one of your spotters providing you with information/asking a question. However, other distractions can be avoided or delayed until more appropriate times such as answering a phone call, social conversations or checking your emails.
Lack of Teamwork
Although you may work alone, you may require spotters in order to complete an operation safely and successfully. If somebody is not contributing to the team effort, this can lead to uncertain outcomes, resulting in the safety of both the team and members of the public being compromised. In order to create a succinct team, it is necessary that the following factors are discussed, clarified, agree and understood prior to an operation:
- A defined aim or goal
- Each team members role and responsibilities
- Communication methods and messages
- Limitations and boundaries
- Emergency procedures (such as showing other team members the return to home function if something were to happen to yourself)
- Opportunities for questions and clarification
A team’s effectiveness can also be improved through the selection of appropriate team members in which reflect a broad range of experience and skill sets.
Fatigue is a natural physiological reaction to prolonged physical or mental stress. We can become fatigued following long periods of work and following periods of hard work. As we become more tired, our ability to concentrate, remember and make decisions takes effect meaning that we are more easily distracted, and we lose situational awareness. If you are tired, you may wish to rethink whether you are safe to guarantee a harmless flight as fatigue can also have an impact on a person’s mood in which we can become irrational and angry.
Lack of Resources
As there are no airworthiness requirements currently within the UK, it is your responsibility to maintain your equipment to the highest standard. If you are trying to operate an old or damaged drone, then you may be putting yourself under unnecessary pressure.
Regardless of the task, resources also include personnel, time, data, tools, skill, experience. A lack of any one of these resources will affect a person’s ability to complete a task. When the proper resources are available, and to hand, there is a greater chance that we complete a task more effectively, correctly and efficiently.
If you are operating commercially, you may experience pressure from your client in order to complete a job within a specific time frame. This can interfere with the quality of your performance which is therefore endangering the safety of your flight. However, one of the most common sources of pressure is ourselves. We can put pressure on ourselves by taking on too much work. Always ensure that any work you commit too, can be dealt with in an unpressurised environment.
Lack of Assertiveness
Assertiveness is a skill in which you are able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive or passively accepting ‘wrong’. Within a team, if members are not able to raise a concern about a task and do not feel that they are allowed to voice this concern, this can create ineffective communications and can damage teamwork. Unassertive team members can therefore feel like they have to go with a majority decision, if they if they don’t believe it is the right decision or think it is dangerous to do so.
If you are assertive, it allows others within the team to express their opinion without feeling threatened.
Within the aviation environment, pilots can encounter various different types of stress, however there are two that are most prominent: acute and chronic. Acute stress arises when we are placed in an environment such as an emergency or working under time pressure with inadequate resources. Chronic stress grows and stems from long term demands such as family relations, finances, illness, bereavement, divorce etc. If you are going through stress from these long-term live events, it can mean our reaction to demands and pressure at work can be lowered. Therefore, your work may take effect in a negative way.
If you are stressed in any way, you may wish to negate your flight until a time in which you can complete the operation in a calm manner.
Lack of Awareness
As a drone pilot, you may mostly work in isolation and only have to consider your own responsibilities which can lead to constricted vision and a lack of awareness of the effect our actions can have on others and the wider task. Lack of awareness can also be a result of other factors such as stress, fatigue, pressure and distraction.
If you do work alone, it may be worth asking friends/colleagues within the industry to check your work and challenge your decisions as this is useful in expanding awareness and gain relevant experience.
Workplace & Social Norms
Workplace and social norms develop over time, often under the influence of specific workplace culture. This can be both a good and bad thing, but also can be both safe and unsafe. Unfortunately, such actions follow unwritten rules or behaviours which can deviate from the required rules, procedures and instructions. When performing an operation, ensure that you are always following and are operating within the CAA’s rules and regulations no matter what peer pressure you may be experiencing.
If you have any questions in regards to any information that you have read within this blog post, please contact a member of our team to discuss further. We hope that this article can be useful in helping pilots to conduct a safer flight!