ASTM F3178 - 16

    Standard Practice for Operational Risk Assessment of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)

    Active Standard ASTM F3178 | Developed by Subcommittee: F38.02

    Book of Standards Volume: 15.11


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    Significance and Use

    5.1 Use—This practice is intended for use by parties who desire access to the national, or international, airspace as regulated by their respective CAA(s) either for a vehicle design (airworthiness) or a vehicle’s use (operational approval). In this practice, it is recognized the varying levels of complexity, need for risk assessment(s), and due diligence that should be determined in an ongoing dialogue between the CAA and the applicant. Users should consider their requirements, the purpose that the ORA is to serve, and their risk acceptance level before undertaking the ORA. Use of this practice does not preclude other initiatives or processes to identify hazardous conditions or assess and mitigate associated risks.

    5.2 Risk Reduced, not Eliminated—No ORA can eliminate all risk or uncertainty with regard to operations. Preparation of an ORA in accordance with this practice is intended to reduce, but may not necessarily completely eliminate, the risk of an operation in which system complexity is minimal, the operation is conducted in a lower risk environment, and the likelihood for harm to people or property, though present, is reduced to an acceptable level. As mission complexity increases, the operational environment may become less risk tolerant. For example, as the kinetic energy associated with the aircraft increases, more complex assessment/analysis tools and greater time may be required to conduct the ORA.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This practice focuses on preparing operational risk assessments (ORAs) to be used for supporting small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) (aircraft under 55 lb (25 kg)) design, airworthiness, and subsequent operational applications to the civil aviation authority (CAA).

    1.2 It is expected that manufacturers and developers of larger/higher energy sUAS designs, intended to operate in controlled airspace over populated areas, will adopt many of the existing manned aircraft standards in use. These include standards such as SAE ARP4754A and ARP4761, which prescribe a “design for safety” top-down design approach to ensure the sUAS designs can reasonably meet more stringent qualitative and quantitative safety requirements. The ORA, however, remains the same for all risk profiles and will be a part of any sUAS operation.

    1.3 In mitigating and preventing incidents and accidents, it is understood that people generally do not seek to cause damage or injure others, and therefore, malicious acts are beyond the scope of this practice.

    1.4 As part of the ORA, the applicant should clearly understand and be able to articulate their intended mission for purposes of assessing safety and providing information to regulators. This documentation of a sUAS operation (mission, or set of missions) is what many refer to as a concept of operations (CONOPS).

    1.5 This practice is intended primarily for sUAS applicants seeking approval or certification for airworthiness or operations from their respective CAA, though sUAS manufacturers may consider this practice, along with other system safety design standards, as appropriate to identify sUAS design and operational requirements needed to mitigate hazards.

    1.6 Units—The values stated in inch-pound units are to be regarded as the standard. The values given in parentheses are mathematical conversions to SI units that are provided for information only and are not considered standard.

    1.7 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    SAE Standards

    ARP4754A Guidelines for Development of Civil Aircraft and Systems

    ARP4761 Guidelines and Methods for Conducting the Safety Assessment Process on Civil Airborne Systems and Equipment


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 49.020 (Aircraft and space vehicles in general)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code 25130000(Aircraft)


    Referencing This Standard
    Link Here
    Link to Active (This link will always route to the current Active version of the standard.)

    DOI: 10.1520/F3178-16

    Citation Format

    ASTM F3178-16, Standard Practice for Operational Risk Assessment of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2016, www.astm.org

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