[SystemSafety] Drone Airprox Video

From: Peter Bernard Ladkin < >
Date: Tue, 4 Jun 2013 09:13:40 +0200

On 4 Jun 2013, at 06:12, Robert Dorsett <rdd_at_xxxxxx
> http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/drohne-luna-bundeswehr-verheimlicht-beinahe-crash-mit-airbus-a-903337.html

In 2004, the German armed forces had an airprox with one of their Luna drones and an Ariana A300 with about 100 passengers over Kabul. The drone passes just under the left wing, or slightly outboard, and loses control in the wake. The incident is on the video from the drone, in four frames: a speck, nearer, passing, control-loss.

The incident and video has contemporary political significance.

The "video" has been on YouTube for three years, apparently, with a question whether it is a hoax or not. It isn't a hoax , say Der Spiegel, who have identified it as a take from an incident which was classified as secret by the German military.

It is topical because the EuroHawk, a development of Northrop-Grumman's Global Hawk which was ordered by the German military, has recently been cancelled, ostensibly because of the difficulties of obtaining certification for flight in civil airspace. One of the certification difficulties is that the EuroHawk is not equipped with appropriate collision-avoidance kit (an ACAS-type device).

Those of us who partly live a life of the mind have few problems understanding the sequence: lack-of-collision-avoidance -> lack of see-and-avoid -> big problems in mixed airspace, as J McD pointed out a little while ago in the exchange relating to Aberporth. Others closer to the political action apparently need to see an incident in order to understand the issue, and this sequence of frames was it.

There is a Spiegel video accompanying the article, narrated in German by Gerald Traufetter, who wrote the large cover-page article on automated flight systems in civilian airliners and consequent pilot-in-the-loop problems a few years ago for which Martyn Thomas and I were interviewed.

Gerald points out the rapid evolution from speck to almost-collision, in three frames (the fourth shows the drone pointed at the ground, upset by the downwash and turbulence around the wingtip of the A300). He says, correctly, that it leaves the ground-based pilot almost no time to react. This is what all pilots (well, most of us) know about airproxes. Think of yourself trying see-and-avoid while keeping your eyes closed two seconds out of every three (reduce that by at least an order of magnitude for drone sampling, but it's hard to blink your eyes that fast).

Apparently the video was persuasive, thank heavens.

Chris Johnson gave a talk on issues with unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace at SAFECOMP in Vienna in 2010. His talk, last of the day, ended with three-quarters of an hour of discussion and Chris being quite tired. His talk was riper than his paper, which I had reviewed and highly recommended. Chris was concerned inter alia that the US was short of pilots for its Afghan supply chain and had apparently been considering equipping C-5s with remote-piloting kit, and flying them into Prestwick, which is not so far away from where he lives and works.

I guess I am very happy to see that the issues, about which we were concerned three years ago that they were not being taken seriously enough, are indeed being taken seriously. The article links to an earlier article from 14 May about the cancellation of the EuroHawk. 5 of them were going to be acquired at a cost of €1.2bn. A "Full Scale Demonstrator" had been built at a cost of €508m, of which about half went into the airframe and half into the electronics, which was in large part European (Cassidian, amongst others). It was flown to Europe from the US in Summer 2011, and apparently there were difficulties doing so because of airspace protection, and that is when the first questions arose. Apparently the Luftwaffe estimates it would cost €500-600m more to certify, and others estimate more like €800m.

PBL Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited

Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited

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systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Tue Jun 04 2013 - 09:13:54 CEST

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