Why focus on safety cases?
MAAP enables new kinds of operations by collaborating with our partners on unique certifications and permissions. Whether these are applications for waivers to Part 107, exemptions to existing rules (e.g. Part 91), or even type certification of new aircraft, there's one common element: They must be supported by compelling safety cases.
We’ve pioneered a robust process for building these safety cases that’s reproducible and versatile. Our systematic approach to risk assessment, data collection, and analysis is informed at every stage by our knowledge of the regulatory environment and by the business needs the customer is trying to achieve with the operation. Our position as a UAS Test Site allows us to work closely with the FAA throughout the process to understand and address any concerns. This unique relationship helps us craft safety cases with the highest probability of success.
The safety cases developed through this process are supported by compelling, contextualized, and traceable data and are tailored to a commercially viable operation. This process has already resulted in landmark approvals that have expanded the horizon of advanced aviation, and we expect it to continue to advance the safe, productive integration of new technology into the National Airspace System - one safety case at a time.
The details of each safety case are unique. But the process proceeds in four stages:
Define the operational context. This is the foundation: all the data, analysis, and assertions in the final safety case can be traced back to parameters established here. We begin by defining the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for the proposed operation. The CONOPS encompasses the operation’s goals, the technology that will be used, training required for operators, and numerous other details. These parameters are the basis for an Operational Risk Assessment (ORA) that identifies the primary hazards, risks associated with them, and, critically, mitigations that may reduce those risks to an acceptable level. We incorporate those mitigations into the CONOPS and update the ORA, repeating the process until the proposed operation reaches an acceptable level of safety.
Collect data. The next step is to demonstrate empirically whether the proposed mitigations lower the operation’s risks into an acceptable range. That’s accomplished through a series of tests carefully planned to yield informative, quantitative data in a context that’s relevant to the original business purpose of the operation. If the data support the proposed mitigations, they are incorporated into the safety case; if not, we return to the CONOPS and ORA to assess whether the operation needs additional mitigations or an alternative approach.
Prepare the safety case. The CONOPS, ORA, and test data are combined in a safety case that provides a comprehensive, well-documented risk analysis for the operation being proposed. Quantitative data on initial and residual risks, directly traceable to conditions outlined in the CONOPS and framed in the context of the operation’s original goals, will support a credible assertion that a satisfactory level of safety can be achieved in a way that still satisfies the client’s business case. Our strong relationship with the FAA and extensive familiarity with the UAS regulatory environment is especially valuable at this stage, because it enables us to craft a safety case whose data and analysis are directly responsive to regulator priorities.
Submit for approval. The direct outcome of a successful safety case is a new approval — a waiver, exemption, certification, or other expansion of current UAS operations. An equally important indirect outcome is the wealth of data that can inform subsequent regulations, policies, guidance, standards, and best practices. This data can enable entirely new markets, like drone delivery and urban air mobility, and lead to overall improvements in safety by facilitating the use of UAS for missions that might otherwise pose risks to humans.