Drone Pilots Exposed to 2 Big Issues After Drone Crashes

By | July 20, 2022

drone-crash-what-do-i-doDrone crashes do happen. Many people think their skills are superior to everyone elses or they have superior intelect that allows them to identify all hazards. But guys…..there are a multitude of reasons drones crash. What about the redneck with a shotgun who happens to live in the area trying to help you recreate that scene from the movie Flight of the Intruder. Pew pew pew.  This happens alot more than you think guys.  Sometimes the drone crashes just due to goofy programming. Remember the “flip of death” some drones had?

Not preparing for a crash is foolish thinking.  “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

Let’s dive into 2 major issues people encounter after a drone crash: (1) controlling the LIPO battery fire and (2) making necessary reports to government agencies.


LIPO Battery Fire After the Crash

Yes, we all know about drones hurting people with spinning propeller blades or just blunt force trauma. But LIPO battery fires scare me.

Consider this. Your drone is so many hundreds of yards away and crashes. Now you have to run over that hundreds of yards to it and find the drone is on fire. You consider stomping it out but realize it’s a chemical fire now and not your basic vegetation type of fire. You leave that fire and you then start stomping out the fire in the surrounding area. You now realize your shoes are melting and all your leg hair is gone. Now what? You fumble around to call 911? Watch it all burn for like 5-10 minutes before the firetruck arrives?

Consider these two documented real world examples:

  • Three University of Colorado Boulder researchers conducting weather studies were operating a drone in the Table Mountain Radio Quiet Zone, Boulder County officials said. The aircraft crashed at a high rate of speed causing the lithium battery to catch on fire and spread to the surrounding area. . . . The wildfire quickly grew to about 52 acres, forcing evacuations which have since been rescinded.” Source.
  • “In June, a drone motor conked out while the vehicle was transitioning from a vertical climb to forward motion. The automatic safety feature designed to land the machine in such instances didn’t work. The aircraft flipped upside down, and a stabilizing safety function also failed. “Instead of a controlled descent to a safe landing, [the drone] dropped about 160 feet in an uncontrolled vertical fall and was consumed by fire,” the FAA wrote in a report on the incident. The ensuing blaze scorched 25 acres and was extinguished by the local fire department. Insider previously reported some of the incident’s details and last week published a report on the high costs of Amazon drone delivery.” Source.
  • “An unmanned aircraft crashed in an agricultural field on Saturday, May 14, sparking two small fires. . . . Baumgart said when his crew arrived on scene, they found an unmanned aircraft down in the field. The aircraft had sustained major damage, and one of the aircraft’s wings was a couple hundred yards away from where the body of the aircraft made impact. . . . The two small fires were isolated to the aircraft’s batteries. Baumgart said the location was mostly dirt, and with the fires isolated to the batteries – it was minimal and the Winters Fire unit was able to put it out.” Source.

A fire in the wrong place at the wrong time can be devastating. Just consider the whole PG&E wildfire fiasco.

What if there are high winds?

Think about bringing along a fire extinguisher when you go flying. Also consider (1) if the size of the extinguisher is big enough to put out the fire in the surrounding area after it took you the time to run 100-500 yards to get there and (2) whether you are in shape enough to run that far with that weight of extinguisher.

And now, before the crash and all the stress, you should review the Federal reporting requirements.


Federal Drone Crash Reporting Requirements

If you crashed a drone, there are reporting requirements to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You may also want to voluntarily report to NASA under their Aviation Safety Reporting Program for certain protections. 

“The NTSB is an independent federal agency, charged by Congress to investigate transportation accidents, determine probable cause, and issue safety recommendations to prevent similar accidents. The agency’s scope extends beyond aviation crashes, as it also investigates selected rail, marine, highway, and pipeline accidents, as well as those involving transportation of hazardous materials.”[1]

The NTSB is COMPLETELY separate from the FAA.

“The primary role of NTSB is improving safety of our nation’s transportation system. The agency determines the probable cause of accidents and issues safety recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. It does not determine fault or liability. In fact, according to 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b), ‘No part of a report of the Board, related to an accident or an investigation of an accident, may be admitted into evidence or used in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report.’”[2]

In addition to doing investigations, the NTSB can judge appeals of FAA enforcement actions brought against manned aircraft pilots and drone pilots. There are two levels of appeal with the NTSB: (1) the administrative law judge level (ALJ) and (2) the full board of NTSB members. Some of you might remember the Pirker case. The Pirker case was initially won at the ALJ level, but on appeal to the full NTSB Board, was remanded back to the ALJ to determine if Pirker’s flight was careless and reckless.

Note that the NTSB’s definitions of accident and unmanned aircraft accident and the FAA’s definition of accident in 107.9 are ALL different.


“Nah. Bro. I’m Good. I’ll Just Keep Quiet.”

Dear Brofessional, this is not a good idea. Here are multiple reasons why:

  • If you call 911, there is a pretty good chance that FAA will be notified.
  • If anyone else calls 911, there is a pretty good chance the FAA will be notified. Ha! Bet ya didn’t expect that one. Like a person seeing smoke in the distance isn’t going to call?
  • FAA and NTSB monitor the news. Seriously. I know of multiple situations where a news article happens and then the FAA inspectors come a knocking.

And here comes the fun part…..the FAA is sometimes slow and they might start investigating you only AFTER the 10 day window passes.

And here comes the 2nd fun part……you are legal right? Like all your paperwork and stuff is legit right? When the NTSB and FAA start poking around, they start asking all sorts of questions to everyone. This is where things start to unravel because one person may keep a tight lip but then one of employees, visual observers, customers, etc. starts blabbing and spills the beans.

The FAA can get pretty aggressive when they want to and play all sorts of games to start sniffing around. If you start pushing back saying some of the things they are asking for are outside of the scope of what happened, then they can use the language from waivers, exemptions, authorizations or whatever to justify their request.  Just consider the language of the 107 waivers being given out. “2. This certificate shall be presented for inspection upon the request of any authorized representative of the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, or of any State or municipal official charged with the duty of enforcing local laws or regulations.” Making some argument like, “O. It says…. this….certificate….so they can’t ask for everything.” does not work.  Standard provision 1 of the waivers all say, “1. A copy of the application made for this certificate shall be attached to and become a part hereof.”  Remember all that stuff you said you were gonna do and you submitted to get that waiver? They can ask for it.  These are like fishing license provisions.

Plus if you have been illegal and are trolling them, that makes any effort on my part much more difficult. For that reason, I may never even take you as a client. You do know I’m not like the emergency room right? I don’t have to take you as a client.

So let’s dive into how to do things the right way. :)


Reporting Times After a Drone Crash:

I’m going to organize this in two different ways to help everyone understand:

Chronologically

  • Immediately:
    • 911
    • NTSB for accident or serious incident.
  • Within 10 Days:
    • FAA of the occurence of an accident.
    • NASA aviation safety reporting program notification.

During this 10 day period, you have time to call an attorney to help in figuring out how best to handle the situation and what to say in your report.  You also might want to figure out how you will handle the immediate reports in the field. You can do this with a checklist or maybe have Part 830 handy so you can reference it if cell coverage is spotty.

Required

  • Mandatory:
    • Report an “accident” or “serious incident” (Part 830’s definitions) immediately to the NTSB Response Operations Center.
    • Send NTSB Form 6120.1 in within 10 days for an accident or 7 days for an overdue aircraft that is still missing. For a serious incident and if requested, send in the form. No time is mentioned in 830.15.
    • Notify the FAA within 10 days of the occurrence of an accident (107.9 “accident”).
  • Voluntary:

Contact Methods

Here is how you can report:

  • You can contact the NTSB’s 24-hour Response Operations Center (ROC) at 844-373-9922 to file a report. Contacting the ROC satisfies 49 CFR 830.5.  A phone call is sufficient initially, but a written follow-up may be required. When you contact the NTSB, 49 CFR 830.6 spells out exactly what needs to be reported to them.
  • You can report via the FAA Drone Zone.
  • I would highly suggest you drafting a written statement, having an attorney look it over, and reviewing after you had a good nights sleep before reporting. The FAA provides the ability to phone call but I really do not like phone call interactions with the FAA.  You might mistate something. FAA Regional Operation Centers:
    • DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and VA 404-305-5150
    • AL, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA,ME,MS, NC, NH, PR, RI, SC, TN, VI, and VT 404-305-5156
    • AK, AS, AZ, CA, CO, GU, HI, ID, MP,MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY 425-227-1999
    • AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI,MN,MO, ND, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, and WI 817-222-5006

NTSB Regulations

NTSB Advisory to Operators of Civil Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The below text comes from the NTSB Advisory on Drones which you can download here. Note. I slightly updated the text below from the NTSB advisory from the original due to recent changes.

INTRODUCTION

The use of small civil unmanned operating systems (sUAS) is growing rapidly, with changes happening on a nearly daily basis.  In particular, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary issued a new final rule on the operation and certification of small unmanned aircraft systems[3] and the FAA recently issued a new “blanket Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)” for commercial Section 333 [now called Section 44807][4] and Public Aircraft operators.

The new Part 107 rule, the FAA Blanket COA,[5] and other FAA authorizations for UAS operation, direct UAS operators to provide expedited notification to the FAA in the event that any of a series of enumerated occurrences take place during the operation of a UAS.  Included in these instructions are reminders that the FAA procedures “are not a substitute for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) under 49 CFR §830.5.”  By means of this Advisory, the NTSB reminds operators of any civil UAS, other than those operated for hobby or recreational purposes, of the NTSB’s accident and incident reporting requirements in Part 830 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations.

BACKGROUND

In August of 2010, the NTSB revised its Part 830 regulations to clarify that its accident and incident notification requirements apply to unmanned aircraft as well as conventional manned aircraft.[6]  Section 830.5 instructs operators of civil aircraft and certain public aircraft to immediately, and by the most expeditious means available, notify the NTSB when an accident or listed incident occurs.

An accident will result in the NTSB’s initiating an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.  In order to minimize the burden on operators of a small UAS and the NTSB, we have exempted from the definitions of “aircraft accident” and “unmanned aircraft accident” in section 830.2 of the NTSB regulations those events in which there is only substantial damage to the aircraft (no injuries), and the aircraft holds an airworthiness certificate and sustains substantial damage. This is what happened with the Facebook drone. You can read the NTSB crash report.

Although any of the incidents enumerated in section 830.5 would require the operator to notify the NTSB, the agency at its discretion may decide to conduct a full investigation with probable cause.

REQUIREMENTS

A civil UAS operator must immediately and by the most expeditious means, notify the NTSB of an accident or incident.  An unmanned aircraft accident is defined in 49 C.F.R. § 830.2 as an occurrence associated with the operation of any public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, in which:

(1) Any person suffers death or serious injury; or

(2) The aircraft holds an airworthiness certificate and sustains substantial damage.

Section 830.2 also provides definitions of what constitutes “serious injury” and “substantial damage”.

Operators must consider that the rest of the reporting requirements for serious incidents listed in section 830.5 apply regardless of UAS weight.  Listed serious incidents that apply to small UAS include the following events:

  • Flight control system malfunction or failure: For an unmanned aircraft, a true “fly-away” would qualify. A lost link that behaves as expected does not qualify.
  • Inability of any required flight crewmember to perform normal flight duties as a result of injury or illness.  Examples of required flight crewmembers include the pilot, remote pilot; or visual observer if required by regulation.  This does not include an optional payload operator.
  • In-flight fire, which is expected to be generally associated with batteries.
  • Aircraft collision in flight.
  • More than $25,000 in damage to objects other than the aircraft.
  • Release of all or a portion of a propeller blade from an aircraft, excluding release caused solely by ground contact.
  • Damage to helicopter tail or main rotor blades, including ground damage, that requires major repair or replacement of the blade(s).
  • An aircraft is overdue and is believed to have been involved in an accident.

EXAMPLES

Below are examples of potential events.

  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and crashes into a tree, destroying the aircraft:  Not an accident, (though substantial damage, too small, and no injuries), but the operator is required to notify the NTSB of a flight control malfunction. NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and strikes a bystander causing serious injury:  Accident (resulted in serious injury). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB. The NTSB must investigate the accident and determine a probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS hits a tree due to pilot inattention on a windy day:  Not an accident (too small, even if substantial damage). However, the operator is required to notify the NTSB if other criteria of 830.5 are met.  NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A large, experimental UAS (400 lbs) has a structural failure and crashes in a remote area:  Accident (substantial damage and holds an airworthiness certificate). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB.  NTSB must investigate and determine a probable cause.

We’d also like to remind unmanned aircraft operators that none of Part 830 is intended to apply to hobbyist or recreational operators as described in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012[7] and applicable FAA guidance.

We hope this advisory serves as a useful reminder to the UAS community that the NTSB remains committed to performing its long-standing mission to support air safety through accident and incident investigation, while placing a minimum burden on this growing industry.

This guidance applies to any unmanned aircraft operated under Part 107, Section 44807 exemptions, civil COA, experimental certificate, etc.  UAS operators should note that they may have additional reporting requirements to the FAA, military, or other government agencies depending on the applicable regulations under which they are operating.

What About Frangible Components?

49 CFR 830.2 says,

Unmanned aircraft accident means an occurrence associated with the operation of any public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, in which:

(1) Any person suffers death or serious injury; or

(2) The aircraft holds an airworthiness certificate and sustains substantial damage.

The NTSB explained in the Federal Register posting,

A number of commenters requested that the NTSB not consider frangible components or other features that by design may result in damage to the aircraft, but do not pose a significant risk, e.g., parachute deployments.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) noted that “[n]ew technologies and construction materials, including light-weight and frangible materials, ensure that small UAS are purposefully built to lessen any impact and damage to the public, other aircraft, or to property. Accordingly, AUVSI advises the NTSB to take into consideration the FAA’s risk-based requirements of aircraft that receive an airworthiness certificate or approval and the extreme low-risk categories that many of these aircraft fall into. For example, the complete elimination of the weight standard may not be the best way to achieve NTSB’s intent. Instead, AUVSI suggests maintaining a maximum takeoff weigh tied to the `substantial damage’ clause, such as what the . . . [FAA] defines as the . . . [sUAS] category, consisting of UAS of less than 55 pounds. AUVSI also suggests refining the proposed language to align with the FAA’s [p]art 107 Rule (14 CFR [part] 107) accident reporting language. Specifically, we propose the condition to specify that these accident investigations are only undertaken if the cost of repairs exceeds $500 and/or the fair market value of property damage exceeds $500, as is this case in . . . § 107.9. This will ensure that the NTSB’s authority is targeted in a cost effective manner that yields true benefits to aviation safety.”

The CAA noted that “[b]ecause of their small size and light weight, most [sUAS] are made by frangible material, designed to break down in the event of an accident, presenting little safety risk to the general public. Requiring reporting of accidents of small UAS, solely because they hold an airworthiness certificate or approval, could lead to [the] NTSB being inundated with investigations that do not present a high safety risk to the public. It could lead to further resource constraints and divert essential resources with the agency.”

NTSB Response.

The NTSB agrees with this concept and has operated in this manner since the initial UAS definition in 2010. The NTSB notes that damage to intentionally frangible components or other by-design damage does not qualify as “substantial damage” for the purpose of this rule.

What About Intentional Sacrificial Crashing of the Drone?

The NTSB explained:

The Coalition argued, “a remote pilot who intentionally decides to crash the drone to avoid the risk of collision with a person or property . . . . should not be reportable.”

NTSB Response.

The NTSB agrees that in a similar manner to the frangible component section above, a UAS that has been crashed or sacrificed intentionally for safety purposes (as opposed to a nefarious act) does not meet the definition of “accident.” However, operators should be reminded that if the reason for the sacrifice is a listed event in § 830.5, a notification may still be required.

Wasn’t This Reg Applicable to Drones  300 Pounds and Heavier?

The regulations used to read  “has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 300 pounds or greater” but later the regulations were changed so that it reads “holds an airworthiness certificate”.  This means smaller drones with special airworthiness certificates or those type certificated under the 14 CFR 21.17(b) process (such as the package delivery drones) will be covered.

What Happens After I Call the NTSB About My Drone Crash?

After contacting the NTSB’s 24-hour ROC, your notification will be taken and forwarded to the appropriate NTSB division for processing. The reported event will be evaluated and a determination will be made whether or not the NTSB will investigate the event. All aircraft accidents as defined by 49 CFR 830.2 are investigated in some capacity, as are select incidents. If an investigation is opened into an event, an investigator will then contact the operator/reporting party to request additional information.

Do I Have to Protect the Drone Crash Wreckage While I Wait?

Yes. 49 CFR § 830.10 says,

(a) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident for which notification must be given is responsible for preserving to the extent possible any aircraft wreckage, cargo, and mail aboard the aircraft, and all records, including all recording mediums of flight, maintenance, and voice recorders, pertaining to the operation and maintenance of the aircraft and to the airmen until the Board takes custody thereof or a release is granted pursuant to §831.12(b) of this chapter.

(b) Prior to the time the Board or its authorized representative takes custody of aircraft wreckage, mail, or cargo, such wreckage, mail, or cargo may not be disturbed or moved except to the extent necessary:

(1) To remove persons injured or trapped;

(2) To protect the wreckage from further damage; or

(3) To protect the public from injury.

(c) Where it is necessary to move aircraft wreckage, mail or cargo, sketches, descriptive notes, and photographs shall be made, if possible, of the original positions and condition of the wreckage and any significant impact marks.

(d) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident shall retain all records, reports, internal documents, and memoranda dealing with the accident or incident, until authorized by the Board to the contrary.

I notified NTSB. I’m waiting for the investigator to call. Now what?

If the event meets the criteria of 49 CFR 830 and is determined to be an aircraft accident, the NTSB investigator assigned to the case will require the operator to complete NTSB Form 6120.1 – Pilot Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report. 49 CFR 830.15 requires you file the form “within 10 days after an accident, or after 7 days if an overdue aircraft is still missing.”

Should you be directed to complete Form 6120.1 – “Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report”, please do as follows:

  • Obtain the form from the requesting NTSB office or download a form-fillable PDF version.
  • The form-fillable version can be edited and saved repeatedly, or simply printed and filled out manually using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent software).
  • DO NOT submit the form until you are contacted by an investigator and are provided with instructions regarding where to send the form. Forms can be submitted by email, FAX, or post mail.
  • Keep in mind that Form 6120.1 has many boxes and fields that are not very applicable to drone pilots. Just do the best you can in filling it all out. The investigator will contact you if there are any questions.

Filing of this report with the assigned investigator satisfies the requirements of 49 CFR 830.15 – Reports and statements to be filed. DO NOT submit a report form instead of providing an initial notification of an aircraft accident to the NTSB ROC.


FAA Drone Crash Reporting Requirements

There are two types of reporting made to the FAA: (1) when there has been a deviation from the regulations and requested to report, and (2) when there has been an accident.

107.21 In-flight emergency.

(a) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the remote pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent necessary to meet that emergency.

(b) Each remote pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (a) of this section must, upon request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

Notice that it is only upon request.  If they didn’t request, do NOT file.  If you are wanting to help out and educate everyone, file a NASA report so the FAA, NTSB, manufacturers, operators, and members of the public can review.

The other regulation that triggers reporting is:

107.9 Accident reporting.

No later than 10 calendar days after an operation that meets the criteria of either paragraph (a) or (b) of this section, a remote pilot in command must report to the FAA, in a manner acceptable to the Administrator, any operation of the small unmanned aircraft involving at least:

(a) Serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness; or

(b) Damage to any property, other than the small unmanned aircraft, unless one of the following conditions is satisfied:

(1) The cost of repair (including materials and labor) does not exceed $500; or

(2) The fair market value of the property does not exceed $500 in the event of total loss.

The FAA gives you 10 days to respond. I would highly suggest you take this time to contact an attorney. Remember that the FAA can prosecute you if you did something stupid.

The FAA provided more guidance on this regulation on page 4-3 in their Advisory Circular 107-2A:

1. At least serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness. A serious injury is an injury that qualifies as Level 3 or higher on the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM). The AIS is an anatomical scoring system that provides a means of ranking the severity of an injury and is widely used by emergency medical personnel. Within the AIS system, injuries are ranked on a scale of 1 to 6, with Level 1 being a minor injury, Level 2 is moderate, Level 3 is serious, Level 4 is severe, Level 5 is critical, and Level 6 is a nonsurvivable injury. The FAA currently uses serious injury (AIS Level 3) as an injury threshold in other FAA regulations.

Note: It would be considered a “serious injury” if a person requires hospitalization, but the injury is fully reversible (including, but not limited to, head trauma, broken bone(s), or laceration(s) to the skin that requires suturing).”  [“In addition to serious injuries, this rule will also require accident reporting for accidents that result in any loss of consciousness because a brief loss of consciousness may not rise to the level of a serious injury.”[8]]

2. Damage to any property, other than the small UA, if the cost is greater than $500 to repair or replace the property (whichever is lower).

Note: For example, a small UA damages a property whose fair market value is $200, and it would cost $600 to repair the damage. Because the fair market value is below $500, this accident is not required to be reported. Similarly, if the aircraft causes $200 worth of damage to property whose fair market value is $600, that accident is also not required to be reported because the repair cost is below $500.

Why is the $500 Number Important?

When you do your pre-flight walk around, you should be figuring out what is $500 and cheaper in in the area. The FAA said, “Property damage below $500 is minimal and may even be part of the remote pilot in command’s mitigations to ensure the safety of the operation. For example, a remote pilot in command may mitigate risk of loss of positive control by positioning the small UAS operation such that the small unmanned aircraft will hit uninhabited property in the event of a loss of positive control.”[9]

What Do I Report to the FAA?

Remember that the NTSB try to find causes to promote safety and does NOT do enforcement actions while the FAA DOES do enforcement actions.  The FAA gave us a clue as to how they will handle this going forward, “the confined-area-of-operation regulations discussed in section III.E.3 of this preamble, such as the general prohibition on flight over people, are designed with the express purpose of preventing accidents in which a small unmanned aircraft hits a person on the head and causes them to lose consciousness or worse. Thus, if there is a loss of consciousness resulting from a small UAS operation, there may be a higher probability of a regulatory violation.”[10]

You are really between a rock and hard place if there is a crash. Why? Because law enforcement or someone else will likely report the accident to the FAA. If you don’t report, you will get in trouble.  If you do report, you COULD get in trouble. You might want to contact an attorney during this 10 day period before you file the report.  Remember that everything you report can and will be used against you.

Submitting the Report. The accident report must be made within 10 calendar-days of the operation that created the injury or damage. The report may be submitted to the appropriate FAA Regional Operations Center (ROC) electronically or by telephone. Electronic reporting can be completed at www.faa.gov/uas/. Reports may also be made to the nearest jurisdictional FSDO (http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/). The report should include the following information:

  1. sUAS remote PIC’s name and contact information;
  2. sUAS remote PIC’s FAA airman certificate number;
  3. sUAS registration number issued to the aircraft, if required (FAA registration number);
  4. Location of the accident;
  5. Date of the accident;
  6. Time of the accident;
  7. Person(s) injured and extent of injury, if any or known;
  8. Property damaged and extent of damage, if any or known; and
  9. Description of what happened.

FAA REGIONALOPERATIONS CENTERS LOCATION WHERE ACCIDENT OCCURRED:

  • DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and VA 404-305-5150
  • AL, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA,ME,MS, NC, NH, PR, RI, SC, TN, VI, and VT 404-305-5156
  • AK, AS, AZ, CA, CO, GU, HI, ID, MP,MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY 425-227-1999
  • AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI,MN,MO, ND, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, and WI 817-222-5006

Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) aka “The NASA Report.”

The ASRS system is run by NASA which is why this report is nicknamed the “NASA Form” or the “NASA Report.”  “The FAA also notes that the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is available for voluntary reporting of any aviation safety incident or situation in which aviation safety may have been compromised. The FAA offers ASRS reporters guarantees and incentives to encourage reporting by holding ASRS reports in strict confidence and not using ASRS information against reporters in enforcement actions. Further, the FAA agrees that data collection is a valuable tool for determining a baseline for performance, reliability, and risk assessment. The FAA plans to develop a tool where remote pilots of small UAS can voluntarily share data which may not meet the threshold for accident reporting. This would provide a means for evaluation of operational integrity for small UAS.”[11]

Unfortunately, the FAA said, “The FAA disagrees that SMS and ASRS systems should be covered on the [Part 107] knowledge test[]. . . . because ASRS is not currently required knowledge for part 61 pilot certificate holders.” This means you aren’t required to KNOW this but you SHOULD. On top of the FAA NOT requiring you to know this, they mention NOTHING about this report in AC 107-2. Remember, this report benefits you more than the FAA.

Keep in mind that the report goes to NASA, not the FAA. NASA is a completely separate agency from the FAA, just like NTSB. “There has been no breach of confidentiality in more than 34 years of the ASRS under NASA management.”

Why Should I file a “NASA Report?”

Advisory Circular 00-46 says,

“The FAA considers the filing of a report with NASA concerning an incident or occurrence involving a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII or the 14 CFR to be indicative of a constructive attitude. Such an attitude will tend to prevent future violations. Accordingly, although a finding of violation may be made, neither a civil penalty nor certificate suspension will be imposed if:

(1) The violation was inadvertent and not deliberate;

(2) The violation did not involve a criminal offense, accident, or action under 49 U.S.C. § 44709, which discloses a lack of qualification or competency, which is wholly excluded from this policy;

(3) The person has not been found in any prior FAA enforcement action to have committed a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII, or any regulation promulgated there for a period of 5 years prior to the date of occurrence; and

(4) The person proves that, within 10 days after the violation, or date when the person became aware or should have been aware of the violation, he or she completed and delivered or mailed a written report of the incident or occurrence to NASA.

There are no limitations on how many NASA Reports you can file. Immunity will not be granted if you received an enforcement action and have been found in violation of the FAR’s within the previous 5 years from the date of occurrence.

So I should always file a NASA Report? It looks like a “get out of jail free card.”

No! If you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, then that information will NOT be deidentified before NASA sends the information to the Department of Justice for criminal actions or the FAA and NTSB for accidents.  This means the report you filed with your name, phone number, address, and a whole bunch of other goodies is going to be sent over to the guys who can prosecute you! How convenient. So if you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, ESPECIALLY if you are unsure if you fall into one of those categories or not, you should contact me. Flying intentionally into a 99.7 TFR is a criminal penalty.

Keep in mind that this is a waiver from disciplinary action. You will still have a violation show up on your pilot record.

Great. So there aren’t any other issues with NASA reporting?

Not exactly. Section 91.25 says, “The Administrator of the FAA will not use reports submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (or information derived therefrom) in any enforcement action except information concerning accidents or criminal offenses which are wholly excluded from the Program.” The problem is that is Part 91 and NOT part 107. The FAA didn’t include a Part 107 equivalent.

We know that NASA won’t give over the info. The FAA can find out a lot of info on their own and can initiate an enforcement action. The idea of the NASA Form was to prevent the imposition of a civil penalty or suspension when the FAA got the info on their own. The FAA indicated in the Part 107 preamble they would continue to honor the program. However, they could change their mind in the future, it isn’t a regulation, and go after people who have filed a NASA Form, but they would get insane amounts of pressure from the safety community to not do that. I’m just making you aware of this situation.


Conclusion

I hope I inspired you to plan for a LIPO battery fire after the crash. I hope I brought to light the need to report to certain federal agencies.

At this point, you should also consider if you need an attorney if there is a crash. Better yet, you should contact me NOW, before the crash, to discuss what you might want to do regarding getting your operations in legal order in case the FAA starts investigating your operations.

[1] http://www.ntsb.gov/news/speeches/rsumwalt/Documents/Sumwalt_141020.pdf

[2] Id. citing 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b).

[3] See 81 Fed. Reg.  42063 (June 28, 2016).  This action fulfills Congress’s direction in section 332(b) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. 112-95, for the Secretary of Transportation and the FAA to issue a final rule on small unmanned aircraft systems that will allow for civil operations of UAS in the National Airspace System.

[4] Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 provides that “[i]f the Secretary of Transportation determines that … certain unmanned aircraft systems  may operate safely in the national airspace system,  the Secretary  shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.”

[5] The FAA Blanket COA for any Operator issued a Valid Section 333 Grant of Exemption (FAA Form 7711-1).

[6] 75 Fed. Reg. 51955 (August 24, 2010).

[7] Section 336(c) states that the term the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

[8] Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 81 Fed. Reg. 42, 178 (June 28, 2016).

[9] Id. at 42,178.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. at 42,179.