“Weight Threshold Is No Longer An Appropriate Criterion”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has proposed amending the definition of “Unmanned aircraft accident” by removing the weight-based requirement and replacing it with an airworthiness certificate or airworthiness approval requirement.
They believe that the weight threshold is no longer an appropriate criterion because unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) under 300 lbs. are operating in high-risk environments, such as beyond line-of-sight and over populated areas. The proposed definition will allow the NTSB to be notified of and quickly respond to UAS events with safety significance.
Therefore, an unmanned aircraft—of any size or weight—used for certain activities will require airworthiness certification or approvals due to higher risk potential, such as flights over populated areas for deliveries. Moreover, a substantially-damaged delivery drone may uncover significant safety issues, the investigation of which may enhance aviation safety through the independent and established NTSB process. This proposed definition change will treat a UAS with airworthiness certification or airworthiness approval in the same manner as a manned aircraft with airworthiness certification or airworthiness approval, thereby enabling the NTSB to immediately investigate, influence corrective actions, and propose safety recommendations.
Accordingly, the proposed definition will be flexible to account for changes in the UAS industry and will allow the NTSB to respond quickly to UAS events with safety significance, while not burdening the agency or public with unnecessary responses.