The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a final rule amending its Part 830 definition of “unmanned aircraft accident” by removing the previously used weight-based requirement—300 pounds or greater—and replacing it with an airworthiness certificate requirement, the same definition as with manned aircraft accident/incident investigations.
When the 300-pound definition was adopted in 2010, the NTSB said the weight-based requirement was necessary because defining an accident solely on “substantial damage” to the aircraft would have required investigations of numerous small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) crashes “with no significant safety issues.” Further, the agency said, “UASs less than 300 pounds are operating in high-risk environments, such as beyond line-of-sight and over populated areas.”
The Safety Board’s investigative responsibilities do not extend to UAS operated by public or government services, such as police or fire departments. “Increasing the scope of this rulemaking to capture public safety operators would create complexity, confusion, and an excessive burden on the agency’s resources with little benefit to safety,” the NTSB said. Additionally, a UAS that has been “crashed intentionally for safety purposes (as opposed to a nefarious act) does not meet the definition of ‘accident.’”