Avy

Safety Series: Safe & Reliable Operations

In continuation to our previous edition of the Safety Series, part 2 dives into Avy’s operations and the integration of the Avy Aera with Auterion’s software. With a guest piece by Auterion, we also explore the operational mitigations and risk assessments conducted by Flight Ops to ensure reliability in all our flights.

16

September

2020

Manon Taylor

Marketing & Communications

,

Avy

It’s a valuable combination to be both an aircraft manufacturer and an operator, as this helps us to think of safety from all angles. Operations are taken seriously at Avy, we use ISO 9001 and AS 9100 as the inspiration for quality management and standard procedures.

Avy is a certified operator and therefore has an ROC, the required operator certificate for any company that wants to fly a drone commercially. Our professionally trained pilots have an RPA-L (Remotely Piloted Aircraft License), the required license to fly a drone in a commercial environment and are trained in RT (Radio Telephony) to communicate with Air Traffic Control. As discussed in our first Safety Series edition, the SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment, the regulatory framework established by the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) is what guides us to safely create, evaluate and conduct our operations at Avy. 

Rule to Risk Approach

As a future with delivery drones becomes apparent, it becomes evident that drones will integrate into non-segregated airspace. The switch to a risk based approach was a great leap towards trusting drone operators to conduct safe operations after undergoing intensive testing and analysis.

To use drones for commercial purposes in the EU, the operator must have assessed the risks of a mission and undergone numerous technical and operational checks predefined by SORA for different types of operations (open, specific or certified). As addressed in Part 1 of the Safety Series, the SORA takes into account the following factors to ensure to a certain level of confidence that the operation can be safely conducted: 

The ground and air risks as well as operational safety objectives evaluated previously will output a Specific Assurance and Integrity Level (SAIL). The SAIL determines the level of robustness required for the operational safety objectives (OSO) and represents the level of confidence that the drone operation will remain under control. Any given risk mitigation or OSO can be demonstrated at different levels of robustness (Low-High). Robustness is achieved through calculating the level of integrity (safety gained for each objective) provided by each mitigation and level of assurance (method of proof) that the claimed safety gained has been achieved. These are both risk based, for example, if the operator demonstrates a medium level of integrity with a low level of assurance, the overall robustness will be considered low.

“The safety risk assessment addresses airworthiness, operating procedures and environment, competence of involved personnel and organisation, as well as airspace issues” - EASA

Operational mitigations 

Once technical and operational mitigations have been secured, the aircraft has proven to be high in robustness and is safe for operations. We interviewed Dinesh and Kitso, our senior pilots, to dive into the risk assessment conducted by flight operations. We rounded up some examples to demonstrate Avy’s safety checks and systems for its operations and may have slipped in a few hiccups that we’ve learned from to improve the safety for our team and ensure reliability for all our flights. 

Pre-flight safety checks 

To ensure safety for all operations, a correct flight preparation is a must. Once on the field, a 10min pre-flight check is conducted by the pilot and co-pilot that are operating the mission. This includes: 

In-flight safety systems

Dinesh & Kitso, our senior pilots during a test flight

3 examples that make Avy operations safe

To guarantee safety, we’d be lying if we said there weren’t any hiccups along the way for Avy. Building and operating an aircraft isn’t easy, and since the technology is new, no day is the same. We’re continuously learning and improving our way of doing things to ensure that we’re the safest and most reliable operator.

F*ck ups that we learned from

Bridging manned and unmanned aviation 

Just like a plane, when drones fly BVLOS they must be visible to Air Traffic Control at all times. It becomes critical to enable drones to safely share the airspace with traditional manned aircraft while maintaining constant communication. The air traffic management under development for autonomously controlled operations of drones, is known as unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM). This is made possible thanks to different suppliers like AirMap, Altitude Angels and Unifly. 

Constant communication between the aircraft and these solutions such as transmission of signals is vital for a safe and reliable mission. Communication is another critical factor to ensure that our operations are done safely. These systems have been made redundant, meaning that they have their own fallback system. In the Avy Aera a number of different links are available for command, control and video streaming. A combination of LTE and Satcom gives the user a high bandwidth, LTE with a range independent backup (iridium satellite). 

Dinesh preparing the communication links (LTE & Radio telemetry link)

Powered by Auterion

An additional layer of safety for the Avy fleet is its reliable software powered by Auterion. The Avy Aera has a complete integration with the Auterion software platform and its operating system to ensure flight, safety and compliance management.

“As we build the software that powers drones, connects them to the cloud and lets operators, pilots, and managers collaborate on a unified platform, we cannot only apply our attention to the individual parts but take a holistic approach to safety throughout the platform.” says Kevin Sartori, co-founder of Auterion. “From configuration management and the high testing requirements that we put all our software releases through, to the predictive maintenance and compliance report features of our cloud suite. In addition we run our Skynode hardware through thorough testing. This includes EM, vibration, and temperature testing among others.”

Amongst other things, the latest addition to the Avy Aera is the upcoming integration with Skynode. Skynode is the latest autopilot based on the FMUv5X flight control standard and has triple redundant sensors on the IMU to increase the reliability of the systems.

Kitso and the Auterion Mission Control integrated in the Avy Ground Station

The future of flight

With our mission of doing good, we want to be able to operate in urban areas helping day and night - whether it's delivering urgent medical goods or helping a fire brigade with making real-time decisions. A high SAIL level is required for this and that's our goal.

We don’t claim to know everything and have learned a lot from our collaborations with renowned parties such as the ANWB MAA, the Dutch operator of helicopters for emergency services. With more than 30 years of experience, the ANWB MAA operates around 8,000 flights a year for medical purposes. This partnership has helped Avy understand the complexities that come with managing a fleet of aircraft, the risks that come with this and a reputation to uphold. This has really helped us to achieve a higher level of safety and reliability when designing and operating our aircraft. 

Don’t miss out on the next and last edition of the Safety Series, focused on data protection and management! We’ve said it before, public perception is everything when it comes to integrating commercial (medical) delivery drones into non-segregated airspace, and with that comes the responsibility of being fully transparent. Drones can be seen as invasive and for that reason, we’ll explore the way data is handled at Avy and how information is gathered during operations in compliance with the GDPR standards.

Sources

EASA - Regulations

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