The Use of Aviation Safety Practices in UAS Operations A Review

Main Article Content

William Theodore Weldon
Joseph Hupy
Damon Lercel
Kaleb Gould


Unmanned Aerial Systems, UAS, have rapidly become a part of the US National Airspace System (NAS) with over 1.6 million registered between 2015 and 2020. As the number of UAS has increased so has the number of sightings by manned aircraft and airport operators. This increase in sightings has raised concerns about the safety of UAS operations, a concern validated by the experiences of the US military. Following high accident/incident rates during UAS operation the US military discovered that UAS, despite having no pilot onboard, are subject to human error. The research and methods to minimize human error are mature, widely integrated, and successful in manned aviation. This paper reports on a literature review of three aviation safety practices and their use in UAS operations. Science Direct and the Web of Science Core Collection databases were reviewed for articles with the keywords “Crew Resource Management”, “Safety Management Systems”, or “Standard Operating Procedures” and “Unmanned Aerial System” or “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.” One hundred and sixteen articles containing these keywords were published between 2000-2020. Each of the discovered articles were downloaded and reviewed by two researchers. This review discovered that six articles discuss the use of either CRM, SMS, or SOPs in UAS operations, which suggests a need for a greater body of UAS research in these areas. This void in research mirrors the early integration approach taken by the US military, and the consequence of the knowledge gap was an increased accident rate. Additional research must be conducted to understand the effect of human error on civilian UAS operations to allow for the safe operation of UAS in the US NAS.

Article Details

Literature Reviews


Arksey, H., & O'Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International journal of social research methodology, 8(1), 19-32.

Bains, S., Bhandari, M., & Hanson, B. (2009). Standard Operating Procedures: The Devil Is in the Details. 19(3), 195-199. doi:10.1615/JLongTermEffMedImplants.v19.i3.40

Brooker, P. (2005). Reducing mid-air collision risk in controlled airspace: Lessons from hazardous incidents. Safety Science, 43(9), 715-738. doi:

Brookes, A. J. (1992). Disaster in the Air: Ian Allen.

Chen, C., Kan, T., Li, S., Qiu, C., & Gui, L. (2016). Use and implementation of standard operating procedures and checklists in prehospital emergency medicine: a literature review. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 34(12), 2432-2439. doi:

Chen, C.-C., Chen, J., & Lin, P.-C. (2009). Identification of significant threats and errors affecting aviation safety in Taiwan using the analytical hierarchy process. Journal of Air Transport Management, 15(5), 261-263. doi:

Chiu, M.-C., & Hsieh, M.-C. (2016). Latent human error analysis and efficient improvement strategies by fuzzy TOPSIS in aviation maintenance tasks. Applied Ergonomics, 54, 136-147. doi:

Clothier, R. A., Williams, B. P., & Hayhurst, K. J. (2018). Modelling the risks remotely piloted aircraft pose to people on the ground. Safety Science, 101, 33-47. doi:

Cooper, G. E., White, M. D., & Lauber, J. K. (1980). Resource management on the flightdeck: Proceedings of a NASA/Industry workshop (NASA CP-2120). Moffett Field, CA: NASA-Ames Research Center.

Cooper Ph.D, M. D. (2000). Towards a model of safety culture. Safety Science, 36(2), 111-136. doi:

Dalamagkidis, K., Valavanis, K. P., & Piegl, L. A. (2008, 25-27 June 2008). Evaluating the risk of unmanned aircraft ground impacts. Paper presented at the 2008 16th Mediterranean Conference on Control and Automation.

Degani, A., & Wiener, E. L. (1993). Cockpit Checklists: Concepts, Design, and Use. Human Factors, 35(2), 345-359. doi:10.1177/001872089303500209

Dempsey, M. E., & Rasmussen, S. (2010). Eyes of the army–US Army roadmap for unmanned aircraft systems 2010–2035. US Army UAS Center of Excellence, Ft. Rucker, Alabma, 9.

DOD, D. o. D. (2001). Unmanned aerial vehicles roadmap 2000-2025. Retrieved from

Draper, J. S. (1988). Military Information Processing. In M. C. Yovits (Ed.), Advances in Computers (Vol. 27, pp. 1-67): Elsevier.

FAA. (2017). Standard Operating Procedures and Pilot Monitoring Duties for Flight Deck Crewmembers, (Advisory Circular 120-71B). Washington D.C

FAA. (2020a). UAS by the Numbers. Retrieved from

FAA. (2020b). UAS by the Numbers. Retrieved from

FAA. (2020c). UAS Sightings Report. Retrieved from

FAA, F. A. A. (2020). UAS by the Numbers. Retrieved from

German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation. (2004). Investigation Report no AX001-1-2/02. Retrieved from

Ginnett, R. C. (1987). First encounters of the close kind: The formation process of airline flight crews. Retrieved from

Ginnett, R. C. (2019). Chapter 3 - Crews as Groups: Their Formation and Their Leadership. In B. G. Kanki, J. Anca, & T. R. Chidester (Eds.), Crew Resource Management (Third Edition) (pp. 73-102): Academic Press.

Haessig, D. A., Ogan, R. T., & Olive, M. (2016, 30 March-3 April 2016). “Sense and Avoid” - What's required for aircraft safety? Paper presented at the SoutheastCon 2016.

Hamman, W. R. (2010). Chapter 8 - Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT).: The Intersection of Technical and Human Factor Crew Resource Management (CRM) Team Skills. In B. G. Kanki, R. L. Helmreich, & J. Anca (Eds.), Crew Resource Management (Second Edition) (pp. 233-263). San Diego: Academic Press.

Harris, D., & Li, W. C. (2011). An extension of the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System for use in open systems. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 12(2), 108-128. doi:10.1080/14639220903536559

Heinrich, H. W., Petersen, D., Roos, N. R., Brown, J., & Hazlett, S. (1980). Industrial accident prevention: A safety management approach. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Helmreich, R. L., & Foushee, H. C. (2010). Chapter 1 - Why CRM? Empirical and Theoretical Bases of Human Factors Training. In B. G. Kanki, R. L. Helmreich, & J. Anca (Eds.), Crew Resource Management (Second Edition) (pp. 3-57). San Diego: Academic Press.

Helmreich, R. L., Merritt, A. C., & Wilhelm, J. A. (1999). The evolution of crew resource management training in commercial aviation. The international journal of aviation psychology, 9(1), 19-32.

Hobbs, A., & Shively, R. J. (2013). Human factors guidelines for UAS in the national airspace system. Proceedings of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Washington, DC, 12-15.

Hurst, N. W., Young, S., Donald, I., Gibson, H., & Muyselaar, A. (1996). Measures of safety management performance and attitudes to safety at major hazard sites. Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, 9(2), 161-172. doi:

International Nuclear Safety Advisory, G. (1991). Safety culture: a report: International Atomic Energy Agency.

Johnson, C. W. (2009, 2009). The safety research challenges for the air traffic management of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 6th EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre Safety Research and Development Workshop, Munich, Germany.

Karhoff, B. C., Limb, J. I., Oravsky, S. W., & Shephard, A. D. (2006, 28-28 April 2006). Eyes in the Domestic Sky: An Assessment of Sense and Avoid Technology for the Army's "Warrior" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Paper presented at the 2006 IEEE Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium.

Koteskey, R. W., Hagan, C., & Lish, E. T. (2019). Chapter 10 - Line Oriented Flight Training: A Practical Guide for Developers. In B. G. Kanki, J. Anca, & T. R. Chidester (Eds.), Crew Resource Management (Third Edition) (pp. 283-322): Academic Press.

Lercel, D. J., & Hupy, J. P. (2020). Developing a Competency Learning Model for Students of Unmanned Aerial Systems. The Collegiate Aviation Review International, 38(2).

Li, Y., & Guldenmund, F. W. (2018). Safety management systems: A broad overview of the literature. Safety Science, 103, 94-123. doi:

Lim, Y., Gardi, A., Sabatini, R., Ramasamy, S., Kistan, T., Ezer, N., . . . Bolia, R. (2018). Avionics Human-Machine Interfaces and Interactions for Manned and Unmanned Aircraft. Progress in Aerospace Sciences, 102, 1-46. doi:

Maurino, D. E., Reason, J., Johnston, N., & Lee, R. B. (2017). Beyond aviation human factors: Safety in high technology systems: Routledge.

McDonald, N., Corrigan, S., Daly, C., & Cromie, S. (2000). Safety management systems and safety culture in aircraft maintenance organisations. Safety Science, 34(1), 151-176. doi:

McFadden, K. L., & Towell, E. R. (1999). Aviation human factors: a framework for the new millennium. Journal of Air Transport Management, 5(4), 177-184. doi:

Moorkamp, M., Kramer, E.-H., van Gulijk, C., & Ale, B. (2014). Safety management theory and the expeditionary organization: A critical theoretical reflection. Safety Science, 69, 71-81. doi:

Moorkamp, M., Wybo, J.-L., & Kramer, E.-H. (2016). Pioneering with UAVs at the battlefield: The influence of organizational design on self-organization and the emergence of safety. Safety Science, 88, 251-260. doi:

Moriarty, D. (2015). 3 - Error management and standard operating procedures for pilots. In D. Moriarty (Ed.), Practical Human Factors for Pilots (pp. 77-117). San Diego: Academic Press.

National Transportation Safety Board. (1989). Aircraft Accident Report--United Airlines Flight 232.

Netherland Aviation Safety Board. (1978). Final report of the investigation into the accident with the collision of KLM flight 4805 and Pan American flight 1736 at Tenerife airport.

NTSB, N. T. S. B. (2017). National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Incident Final Report. Retrieved from

NTSB, N. T. S. B. (2019). National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Incident Final Report. Retrieved from

Nullmeyer, R., Herz, R., & Montijo, G. (2009). Training interventions to reduce air force predator mishaps. Retrieved from

O'Connor, B. B., Gordon, S., & Mendenhall, P. (2013). Beyond the Checklist: What Else Health Care Can Learn from Aviation Teamwork and Safety: Cornell University Press.

O'Donnell, M. (2017). Investigation of UAS Accidents and Incidents. Retrieved from FAA Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention:

Orlady, H. W., & Foushee, H. C. (1987, 1987). COCKPIT RESOURCE MANAGEMENT; TRAINING.

O’Connor, P., Hahn, R. G., Nullmeyer, R., & Montijo, G. (2019). Chapter 19 - The Military Perspective. In B. G. Kanki, J. Anca, & T. R. Chidester (Eds.), Crew Resource Management (Third Edition) (pp. 515-538): Academic Press.

Papadimitriou, E., Schneider, C., Aguinaga Tello, J., Damen, W., Lomba Vrouenraets, M., & ten Broeke, A. (2020). Transport safety and human factors in the era of automation: What can transport modes learn from each other? Accident Analysis & Prevention, 144, 105656. doi:

Patankar, M. S., & Sabin, E. J. (2010). Chapter 4 - The Safety Culture Perspective. In E. Salas & D. Maurino (Eds.), Human Factors in Aviation (Second Edition) (pp. 95-122). San Diego: Academic Press.

Reason, J. (1998). Achieving a safe culture: Theory and practice. Work & Stress, 12(3), 293-306. doi:10.1080/02678379808256868

Ren, Z. Q., Cheng, H. F., & Huang, G. L. (2015). Exploration of Crew Resource Management Concept Based on UAV System.

Roughton, J., Crutchfield, N., & Waite, M. (2019). Chapter 5 - Overview of Basic Safety Management Systems. In J. Roughton, N. Crutchfield, & M. Waite (Eds.), Safety Culture (Second Edition) (pp. 95-108): Butterworth-Heinemann.

Rundmo, T., & Hale, A. R. (2003). Managers’ attitudes towards safety and accident prevention. Safety Science, 41(7), 557-574. doi:

Russell, C. J. (2010). Airspace command and control in the contemporary operating environment. Retrieved from

Salas, E., Maurino, D., & Curtis, M. (2010). Chapter 1 - Human Factors in Aviation: An Overview. In E. Salas & D. Maurino (Eds.), Human Factors in Aviation (Second Edition) (pp. 3-19). San Diego: Academic Press.

Schamel, J. (2012). How the pilot’s checklist came about. Flight Service History.

Stark, B., Stevenson, B., & Chen, Y. (2013, 28-31 May 2013). ADS-B for small Unmanned Aerial Systems: Case study and regulatory practices. Paper presented at the 2013 International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (ICUAS).

Sumwalt, R. (2013). Standard Operating Procedures: The Backbone of Professional Flight Operations. In.

Todd, C., Werner, C., & Hollingshead, J. (2019). Public Safety UAS Flight Training and Operations. Retrieved from Miami, FL:

Tullo, F. J. (2019). Chapter 2 - Teamwork and Organizational Factors. In B. G. Kanki, J. Anca, & T. R. Chidester (Eds.), Crew Resource Management (Third Edition) (pp. 53-72): Academic Press.

Turner, B. A., Pidgeon, N., Blockley, D., & Toft, B. (1989). Safety culture: its importance in future risk management.

Tvaryanas, A. P., Thompson, W. T., & Constable, S. H. (2006). Human factors in remotely piloted aircraft operations: HFACS analysis of 221 mishaps over 10 years. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 77(7), 724-732.

Uttal, B. (1983). The corporate culture vultures. Fortune, 108(8), 66-72.

Valavanis, K. P. (2008). Advances in unmanned aerial vehicles: state of the art and the road to autonomy (Vol. 33): Springer Science & Business Media.

Williams, K. W. (2004). A summary of unmanned aircraft accident/incident data: Human factors implications. Retrieved from

Zhang, X., Liu, Y., Zhang, Y., Guan, X., Delahaye, D., & Tang, L. (2018). Safety assessment and risk estimation for unmanned aerial vehicles operating in national airspace system. Journal of Advanced Transportation, 2018.

Zmarz, A., Rodzewicz, M., Dąbski, M., Karsznia, I., Korczak-Abshire, M., & Chwedorzewska, K. J. (2018). Application of UAV BVLOS remote sensing data for multi-faceted analysis of Antarctic ecosystem. Remote Sensing of Environment, 217, 375-388. doi: