Swift, efficient and cost effective, industrial drone delivery is transforming the way companies approach logistics. Whether it’s transporting urgent supplies between facilities or shipping cargo to customer depots, drone technology takes the action to the skies. But as drone delivery becomes more integrated into the fabric of commercial logistics, it’s paramount to ensure safe practices.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of safety regulations in cargo drone delivery. What are the risks associated with the rise of industrial drone delivery? We’ll look at the need for robust safety guidelines, examine the current regulations governing drone delivery, and explore some best practices to keep your business compliant.
Understanding Regional Safety Regulations
Given the importance of ensuring safety in industrial operations, compliance is crucial. However, navigating safety regulations can be complex, not least because the technology is still so new that regulations are still evolving. As a result, regulations can differ significantly from one country to another, or even between different regions in the same country.
That said, many countries around the world have put their own regulations in place, and it’s essential to adhere to them. The consequences of non-compliance can be deadly: if a company operates a drone outside of designated airspace, for example, it could cause a mid-air collision.
Penalties also pose a threat. In Canada, corporations can be fined up to $15,000 for not following airspace rules and putting people and aircraft at risk.
Compliance Essentials: Key Safety Regulations
While the global regulatory landscape is still very fragmented, some key themes are nevertheless emerging in different jurisdictions around the world. Many frameworks divide drones into categories based on their weight, with stricter regulations applying for heavier aircraft. Generally, drones are not allowed to fly over crowds of people, or above a maximum flight altitude—boundaries that are calculated to ensure a safe level of separation between drones and manned aircraft.
In Canada, the regulations governing the safe operation of cargo drones have been defined by Transport Canada. There are regulations covering drone registration, pilot certification, and where drones are allowed to fly. Operators must also respect other laws, such as the Criminal Code and their province’s trespass act.
Risk Management in Drone Delivery
It’s not enough to simply comply with regulations; drone operators also have to become attuned in order to anticipate potential problems. Unpredictable weather, equipment malfunctions or congested airspace are all variables that will impact safety. These risks must be identified, assessed and mitigated in order to ensure safe and smooth deliveries.
This is now becoming defined in law. In the US, for example, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) recently revised its safety risk management (SRM) policy, providing “a generalized list of common hazards and possible mitigations” for assessing new remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) requests.
Pilot Training and Certification
Cargo drones don’t fly themselves. They’re remotely piloted by operators on the ground and these drone pilots need to be properly trained to maintain safety in the skies. In Canada, pilots have to pass an online exam and successfully pass a flight review before applying for a pilot certificate.
While a Canadian pilot certificate does not expire, this is far from a one-off exercise. Drone technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and it’s essential for pilots to keep their skills up to date in the interests of safety. This is enshrined in the regulations: pilots must be able to show proof of having retaken the exam, passed a flight review or completed one of three training activities at least 24 months before each flight.
Emergency Procedures and Contingency Plans
The rise in industrial cargo drone deliveries highlights the need for robust emergency procedures and contingency plans in case of unexpected situations—a sudden gust of wind, say, or a technical fault mid-flight.
In the same way that pilots of manned aircraft turn to the “aviate, navigate, communicate” mantra in emergency situations, drone operators also need to be prepared. So it’s essential to have an emergency response plan in place. In the case of drones, this generally involves maintaining control of the drone, directing it to a safe place (perhaps a landing spot that has already been identified along the route), and bringing it to ground safely.
Global Harmonization of Safety Standards
Governments around the world recognize the need to harmonize safety standards on a global scale. Not only will this simplify cross-border drone operations, but it also allows regulators to pool expertise and avoid unnecessary duplication.
A century of experience in aviation has led to the development of international standards governing civil aviation, defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialist agency of the United Nations. By contrast, drone delivery is still in its infancy and regulations are still playing catch-up. However, the ICAO is developing global standards and recommended practices for remotely piloted aircraft systems, and Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) is also developing shared guidance for national authorities.
Drone delivery has the potential to revolutionize industrial and commercial logistics, but operators have to prioritize safety in line with regulations. While a unified standard is yet to emerge, individual governments have developed a set of guidelines and regulations designed to ensure the safe operation of drones. In addition, companies have a responsibility to embrace risk management and pilot certification, and to put robust emergency procedures in place.
Drone Delivery Canada is leading the industry when it comes to the safe, scalable integration of delivery drones into commercial operations. Our pioneering system includes proprietary software, industrial-grade drones and automated DroneSpot (™) depots to create a fully integrated logistics platform. Contact our team to find out more about our industrial drone delivery solution and how we’re putting safety first.