Attention, drone operators: the NASA UAS Safety Reporting System is open: and you can volunteer information guaranteed to be kept confidential, and not to get you into trouble with the FAA.
It’s Voluntary – But You Should Do It
The NASA UAS Safety Reporting System is part of NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). “The ASRS is a voluntary, confidential, non-punitive, safety reporting system that receives safety reports from pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, cabin crew, maintenance technicians, and now UAS operators,” says NASA. “ASRS has been a part of the aviation safety culture for over 45 years and has collected and analyzed over 1.7 million safety reports to date. These reports describe unsafe occurrences, hazardous situations, and lessons- learned to help prevent others from making the same mistake.”
This is not the place to report criminal activity or a serious accident, but it is the place to report problems like a “near miss” with another aircraft, or issues that arise from equipment failure, communications loss, environmental hazards, human error, and more. NASA uses the information to develop best practices for procedures and checklists for safe drone ops, and to communicate lessons learned – so that other pilots won’t have to make the same mistake. Additionally, information could be used to “identify equipment, software, and automation issues that can contribute to UAS incidents and resolve these issues to improve safety,” NASA points out.
Reports are Confidential
The NASA UAS Safety Reporting System is only as useful as drone pilots make it. To encourage honest reporting, the system is confidential, something that NASA emphasizes:
All reports are held in strict confidence and de-identified by ASRS safety analysts. The resulting anonymous aviation safety data is shared with the aviation and UAS communities.
The ID strip containing your name, address, phone number is removed and sent back to you by mail as proof of submission. Your report is deidentified and personal references are removed and dates / times / locations are generalized. NASA will not reveal your identity.
In addition, the FAA has offered “protection against civil penalty and certificate suspension in exchange for your valuable safety information (see FAA Advisory Circular AC 00-46F),” says NASA.
Drones have a great safety record. As the industry moves forward in to aircraft certification and more advanced operations, data about potential risks and problems is critical – for drone pilots as well as for lawmakers. The drone industry is developing as a highly professional aviation sector: participating in the ASRS for UAS will help all pilots, manned and unmanned, to be better stakeholders in the NAS.