Hazard Analysis and Safety Requirements for Small Drone Operations: To What Extent Do Popular Drones Embed Safety?

A. Plioutsias, N. Karanikas, M.M. Chatzimihailidou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Currently, published risk analyses for drones refer mainly to commercial systems, use data from civil aviation, and are based on probabilistic approaches without suggesting an inclusive list of hazards and respective requirements. Within this context, this article presents: (1) a set of safety requirements generated from the application of the systems theoretic process analysis (STPA) technique on a generic small drone system; (2) a gap analysis between the set of safety requirements and the ones met by 19 popular drone models; (3) the extent of the differences between those models, their manufacturers, and the countries of origin; and (4) the association of drone prices with the extent they meet the requirements derived by STPA. The application of STPA resulted in 70 safety requirements distributed across the authority, manufacturer, end user, or drone automation levels. A gap analysis showed high dissimilarities regarding the extent to which the 19 drones meet the same safety requirements. Statistical results suggested a positive correlation between drone prices and the extent that the 19 drones studied herein met the safety requirements generated by STPA, and significant differences were identified among the manufacturers. This work complements the existing risk assessment frameworks for small drones, and contributes to the establishment of a commonly endorsed international risk analysis framework. Such a framework will support the development of a holistic and methodologically justified standardization scheme for small drone flights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-584
Number of pages23
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number3
Early online date2 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Drones
  • hazard analysis
  • safety requirements


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