The Air Force Safety Center Remotely Piloted Aircraft Branch at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., was established in 2009. Its mission is preventing RPA mishaps with proactive investigation, analysis, and recommendations. Their vision is to be recognized worldwide as experts in RPA investigations, human factors, systems safety, operations research, and airspace integration.
The branch consists of 10 military members and civilian employees with experts in safety investigation, human factors, air traffic, systems safety, and operations research. Approximately 18 Class A and B RPA mishaps per year are supported from the initial mishap response to completion of the Memorandum of Final Evaluation. The branch assists each Safety Investigation Board with developing factors, findings, causes, and recommendations with the Air Force Safety Automated System. Further, the branch members are critical advisors to the Air Force chief of safety for the recommendation closure process.
In support of proactive safety, the RPA Branch participates in the Military Flight Operations Quality Assurance program. Branch members have analyzed trend data for the MQ-9 with the goal of making operations, maintenance, and training safe. Additionally, the branch has worked on safely integrating RPAs in the National Airspace System since 2010. Through the use of safety assessments on ground and air-based sense and avoid systems, RPAs have been able to fly successfully outside restricted airspace without visual observers or chase aircraft. Currently, the branch is focused on the next aviation frontier by mitigating midair collision hazards associated with the proliferation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) around the world.
Overall, the AFSEC RPA Branch serves as a center of excellence for proactive safety and promoting a safety culture in the RPA community.
For additional information, contact the RPA Branch at HQAFSC.SEFQ@us.af.mil