Aviation safety investigations & reports

Accredited Representative to UK AAIB into the loss of control involving an Alauda Airspeeder prototype unmanned aircraft system (UAS) near Goodwood Aerodrome, West Sussex, United Kingdom, on 4 July 2019

Investigation number:
AE-2019-032
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final report

The occurrence

On 4 July 2019, while conducting a demonstration flight of an Alauda Airspeeder prototype unmanned aircraft system at Goodwood Aerodrome, United Kingdom (UK), the remote pilot lost control of the aircraft. In response, the pilot activated the safety ‘kill switch’ intended to immediately terminate the flight, but it had no effect.

The unmanned aircraft then climbed, to approximately 8,000 ft and entered controlled airspace at a holding point for flights arriving at Gatwick Airport, before its battery depleted and it fell to the ground. It collided with terrain in a field of crops approximately 40 m from occupied houses, outside of its designated operating area. There were no injuries.

Investigation

The UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigated this occurrence. As Australia was the State of Manufacture of the aircraft, the AAIB requested appointment of an Accredited Representative from the ATSB.

To facilitate this request, the ATSB initiated an external investigation under the provisions of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

Conclusion

The AAIB found that the Alauda Airspeeder Mk II was not designed, built or tested to any recognisable standards and that its design and build quality were poor. In addition, the operator’s operating safety case, which formed the basis for gaining an exemption from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, contained several statements that were shown to be incorrect.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems unit had assessed the operator’s application and, after clarification and amendment of some aspects, issued an exemption to the Air Navigation Order to allow flights in accordance with the operators Operational Safety Case. The Civil Aviation Authority did not meet the operator or inspect the Alauda Airspeeder Mk II before the accident flight.

There have been many other similar events where control of an unmanned aircraft has been lost, resulting in either it falling to the ground or flying away. The AAIB also identified that, even a small unmanned aircraft falling from a few metres could cause a fatal injury if it struck a person.

The AAIB investigation report made several Safety Recommendations and the final investigation report can be found at www.aaib.gov.uk.

Any further information regarding this investigation should be directed to the AAIB via: enquiries@aaib.gov.uk

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The information contained in this update is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the AAIB investigation of the occurrence.

General details
Date: 04 July 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1141 UTC   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location: near Goodwood Aerodrome, West Sussex, United Kingdom    
State: International   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 24 February 2021   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft model Alauda Airspeeder prototype unmanned aircraft system (UAS)  
Departure point Goodwood Aerodrome, West Sussex, United Kingdom  
Last update 24 February 2021