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Abstract

Abstract

The author explored the application of crew resource management (CRM) principles to commercial flight operations conducted by large unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Currently, there is no regulatory structure governing the operation of large UAS in commercial flight operations. However, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) forecasted the future by demonstrating the feasibility of large remotely piloted UAS flight in June 2018 by flying Ikhana, a modified MQ-9 Predator B aircraft, over a 415-mile route in Class A and in Class E airspace over southern California (Kooser, 2018). Ikhana is a 10,500-pound aircraft with a wingspan of 66 feet capable of climbing to 40,000 feet. In order to establish the viability of CRM as an element of a safety management system to mitigate human factors errors, the research used a cross-case analysis by Neff (2016) of four large UAS accidents to derive a ranked list of the eight most prevalent hard-skill and soft-skill human errors identified as causal to the accidents. An additional study of five Indian Air Force UAS accidents by Sharma and Chakravarti (2005) was referenced and listed eight primarily soft-skill human factors contributing factors. The author applied a CRM teamwork centered template using communications and workload management inputs and situational awareness and threat and error management outputs to analyze and propose mitigations to the contributing human factors errors. The author concluded that a safety management system incorporating CRM principles and supported by appropriate leadership philosophy, policies, procedures, and best practices is an essential element to combat human factors errors and facilitate safe integration of large commercial UAS flight operations into joint use national airspace.

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