Safety Management Systems for a safe and sustainable growth in the drone and Advanced Air Mobility sector

by | Nov 29, 2023 | Future Air Mobility


Over 100 years, the civil aviation industry has advanced to become one of the safest and most reliable modes of transportation. The aviation landscape continues to evolve as new technologies, such as automation and Artificial Intelligence, enable more flexible, environmental, and cost-effective innovative solutions for operations within the existing ecosystem. Technology is enabling a different modus operandi: from the traditional crewed aircraft used by commercial airlines, general aviation, and gliders, operating from airports and aerodromes towards a new era of remotely piloted or autonomous electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles and drones operating in rural and urban environments.

Benefits of a Safety Management System (SMS)

Safety Management Systems (SMS) have been effectively managing an organisation’s safety risk, safety assurance, safety performance, safety culture and change for decades. Not all players within the aviation Industry are required to have an SMS; however, it is recommended that the principles of an SMS (Policy, Risk Management, Assurance and Promotion) are considered as several benefits can be realised from its effective deployment, including:

• Better informed decision-making by leadership.
• Improvements in safety performance and ability to manage risks.
• Better people management: better allocation of resources, identifying the roles and responsibilities required for safe conduct of operations, defining accountabilities within an organisation, ensuring appropriately trained and qualified people carry out those roles and responsibilities.
• Manage change efficiently and monitor its effectiveness through safety and efficiency performance measurement.
• Proactive and positive safety culture from the outset.

Such benefits further enable:

• Positive reputation within industry and enhanced public confidence through demonstration of ongoing safety risk and efficiency performance.
• Financial efficiency, facilitating growth: by understanding, maintaining, and improving safety risk (through change and ongoing monitoring of identified improvement areas).
• Highly motivated team through a positive safety culture.

Effective Safety Management

As innovators within the Drone and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) community develop their capabilities and transform the aviation ecosystem, it is crucial that both existing ‘traditional aviation’ and new ‘drone and AAM’ entrants can successfully identify and manage the unique safety risks related to their operation, which can be done through their SMS. Considerations include;

• Introduction of innovative technologies: Drones and AAM are technologically innovative solutions, requiring unique research into their safety risks, especially with the increasing autonomous nature of their operations. Innovative technology, such as a detect and avoid capability, is introduced to improve safety risk, but also introduces new risks that need to be assessed and managed.

• Operating in a complex environment: Drones and AAM are operating in an already complex environment that includes other aircraft, transport modes, people, animals and wildlife, and property. The operating landscape is shifting into urban and built-up areas. In addition, existing airspace users now have a new disruptor within the airspace and their safety risks need to be re-assessed as they may no longer be able to rely on traditional methods such as “see and avoid,” particularly with small drone technology.

• Infrastructure to support innovation: The infrastructure to support innovative technologies will be changing and not all will require a runway to operate. The addition of vertiports into urban areas and strategic locations will see new hazards and risks that will need to be effectively managed.

• New industry stakeholders: New players are entering the aviation environment in the form of Drone and AAM manufacturers and operators, local authorities, Service Providers for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM), Data networks, infrastructure etc. Some may have limited knowledge of the importance of effective safety management, particularly around risk. It is crucial that organisations, new and existing, have the capability to effectively manage their risks and understand their safety responsibilities to the wider ecosystem and its stakeholders.

• Societal acceptance: The public expects a continuing high level of safety and security from the aviation industry’s traditional and new entrants. New players will also need to consider the efficiency aspects of safety risk mitigations and ongoing monitoring alongside environmental noise and cyber-security concerns.

Recognised for its safety expertise within the aviation and aeronautical industry, Ebeni can help stakeholders build a safer and more secure business through the design and implementation of a proportionate and effective SMS which is; adaptable for growth, flexible for change, effective at managing risk and improving organisational safety culture. Ebeni provide expertise and objectivity to ensure that your SMS meets the needs of your organisation and is compliant with regulation and industry best practice. Our full list of safety capabilities is documented on our Future Air Mobility Webpage Expertise in Future Air Mobility | Ebeni.

Ebeni has a deep understanding of safety management principles and practices, and we are committed to helping our clients achieve their safety goals. We stand ready to support all disruptors in the Drone and AAM sector to support their safe and efficient growth within the aviation ecosystem. Contact the team today for more information.

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