SFOC UAV Fly-away Procedure Confusion

black-and-white-question-mark-clipart-9T4ep4xacRecently some discussions have come up regarding the proper and required procedures for UAV fly-aways in regards to the SFOC application.

As outlined in the Staff Instructions, the applicant must have processes and procedures in place to deal with fly-away situations:

If not authorized to enter controlled airspace, the Certificate applicant must describe the following items in the event that there is an inadvertent flight into controlled airspace and/or fly-away:
– a means of determining if they inadvertently enter controlled airspace;
– a plan to communicate with the ATS Unit where the UAV inadvertently flies into controlled airspace and cannot be immediately returned to the area of operation; and
– the ability to contact, and know who to contact, if the UAV is no longer under control of the pilot and the UAV flies away.

A Fly-away means an interruption or loss of the command and control link where the pilot is unable to affect control of the aircraft and the aircraft is longer following its preprogrammed procedures resulting in the UAV not operating in a predictable or planned manner.

Where the confusion has arose is around what is deemed as acceptable procedures for handling such issues as it relates to the SFOCprocess. In our applications to date, which have been accepted in both the Atlantic and Ontario Regions multiple times, the following has been used without issue:

– Issue will be broadcast to ATS and aircraft in the area via airband radio to warn them of the issue, location, and last known altitude. The ATS may also be informed by phone if they are unreachable by radio.
– Warning via air horn and vocally will be issued to people in the immediate area as to the issue.
– Local emergency agencies will be notified of the issue as appropriate for the location.
– Personnel will secure the take-off zone and associated equipment and start an immediate search for the aircraft.
– Upon retrieval of the aircraft, or after the expiration of maximum flight time, a broadcast to ATS and aircraft in the area via airband radio will be made to give an all clear to the incident.
– Appropriate emergency agencies will be informed of the recover or failed recover.
-Report will be made to Transport Canada on the occurrence.

However recently applicant Taylor Perron in the Prairie & Northern Region was challenged on their application when using similar procedures. The PNR inspector indicated that there were defined processes that had been created by NAV Canada and that they must be used and were the only accepted procedures, however no specific details were initially provided.  After further research it was determined that the following procedures are what were expected:

For vertical fly-aways:  The Area Control Center Shift Manager for your region must be contacted first.  You must list their phone number.  These phone numbers are not published.  You must get the phone number from NAV Canada.  After you have contacted the manager you must contact the ATC for the nearest controlled aerodrome.  You must state that you got the location of, and contact information for said aerodrome from the Canada Flight Supplement.

For horizontal fly-aways:  The same as for vertical fly-aways, but in reverse.  Contact the nearest controlled aerodrome first, then the Area Control Center Shift Manager.  Again, you must state that you got the relevant information from the Canada Flight Supplement and NAV Canada.

We have not been able to find any direct reference to these procedures from NAV Canada or Transport Canada, however they seem to be at least what the PNR Region is now requiring.

Thanks to Taylor Perron for sharing his experience and findings on this matter, it is a great help to the UAV community.

If you have any further insight into these procedures or related, please feel free to comment and share.