Regulations and procedures related to unmanned aircraft and cooperation-related communications are insufficient

Published 28.1.2020

The Safety Investigation Authority has completed its investigation of the collision hazard between an aeroplane and a remotely piloted aircraft in Valkeakoski on 6 February 2019. A Finnish Air Force Learjet 35 A/S and Pirkanmaa Rescue Department’s remotely piloted aircraft DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian (drone) were in danger of collision in Valkeakoski on 6 February 2019. During the incident, the Learjet was flying around 10 metres lower than the remotely piloted aircraft, and their lateral distance was around 60 metres.

The Learjet had set off on a refresher training flight that included low-altitude flying. When the Learjet was already in the air, the Pirkanmaa Rescue Department made an advance notification of unmanned aircraft operations (RPAS) to the Tampere-Pirkkala flight control and began flight operations in Valkeakoski.

The information on the RPAS operations was not relayed to the air traffic controller, and no flight information service was provided to aviators of the RPAS operations. If the air traffic control had warned the crew of the Learjet of the collision hazard, the incident could have been avoided. The Pirkanmaa Rescue Department and ANS Finland Oy, the maintainer of Finland’s air navigation services, did not have a cooperation agreement on RPAS operations, and no procedure for advance notifications had been agreed.

The Safety Investigation Authority issues four safety recommendations for the improvement of aviation safety and the prevention of similar incidents.

Unmanned aviation has grown rapidly. In Finland, air traffic control still lacks unified procedures for handling advance notifications of unmanned aviation and providing flight information service on unmanned aviation, says professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi of the Safety Investigation Authority.

The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency ensure that ANS Finland Oy provides instructions on procedures for handling advance notifications related to RPAS operations and the provision of the related flight information service.

According to the Aviation Act, an unmanned aircraft may deviate from flight rules in an area restricted from other aviation, but the obligation to follow the flight rules in RPAS operations is unclear, Nurmi adds.

Secondly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Ministry of Transport and Communications ensure that the regulations on RPAS operations are consistent.

Procedures that would allow the different State aviation actors to be informed of planned, started or ending flight operations have not been investigated or adopted, says Investigator-in-charge Janne Kotiranta.

Thirdly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Ministry of the Interior ensure that State aviation actors and the instance responsible for medical helicopter operations are informed of the flight operations of the different parties.

The Emergency Response Centre plays a role in coordinating the operations of the authorities. A national ERC Cooperative Group has been established in order to improve the cooperation between the authorities and service providers. Military aviation should also be taken into consideration when distributing infor-mation related to flight operations, Kotiranta adds.

The information in the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency’s Droneinfo application is incomplete. For example, the application does not allow submitting a flight notification in advance. During the investiga-tion, the Droneinfo application also did not provide information on the dynamic airspace, Kotiranta states.

Fourthly, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency correct the deficiencies in the Droneinfo application.


Summary


Further information:

Investigator-in-charge Janne Kotiranta, tel. +358 2951 50714

Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Director, professor tel. +358 2951 50701