Wyvern’s UAS risk certification program starting to grow

By Luke Geiver | September 15, 2016

Wyvern Ltd., a Pennsylvania-based aviation safety and risk management company, believes it has exactly what unmanned aircraft systems entities need to land contracts with major end-user clients. After serving the manned aviation community for 25 years by helping Fortune 100 groups vet out charter aircraft firms, Wyvern has added a UAS-focus. Through its EXACT process, excellence through assessment and continuous monitoring and training, Wyvern can provide a safety and procedural assessment for UAV companies looking to differentiate, said John Meehan, vice president of global sales.

Following the release of the small UAS rule in August, Meehan said the industry has a low barrier of entrance. “A lot of operators are trying to win business with a lot of big companies,” he said, and for those big companies’ risk management is a very important practice. “They want to see operators that have a very robust and documented program for procedures,” he added.

To help UAS clients improve their safety culture and understanding of acceptable operations, flight and risk mitigation or action planning, Wyvern has developed the EXACT program to assess—and score—a UAS firm’s abilities. The process can benchmark the relative risk associated with one UAV operator against another, Meehan said. But, the process is akin to a coaching scenario, he added, with Wyvern working with each operator throughout the process to identify and remedy any shortcomings they may have in their mitigation or operational procedures.

Wyvern has created four categories of which they will assess a UAV operation. The categories—one through four—are based on platform weight and typical flight height maximums. Participating companies send information ranging from insurance certificates to operations manuals to the Wyvern team. For a category one assessment, UAV entities can expect a two-week process of back-and-fourth communication with the Wyvern team. During the process, Wyvern will point out areas in need of improvement or areas that a UAV company may not have known a large end-use client may be interested in.

Eventually, Wyvern will have a directory of certified UAV companies for its end-use clients to utilize, Meehan said, much like it has for its manned aviation clients. And, participants in the certification process should be able to negotiate better insurance premiums with their providers, Meehan added. “We aren’t trying to make people look bad, we are working to make people do better,” he said. “This should allow you to go back to your insurance provider and request a better premium because you are showing a much higher commitment to safety than the rest of the pack.”

During a recent UAV operator assessment, the Wyvern team was able to point out that an operator had no process for ensuring a payload did not exceed the maximum weight limits of the platform. It also revealed that the maintenance plan did not call for the use of OEM parts only, both variables Meehan said will be important to major end-users in the oil and gas or utilities sectors. “Everybody I talk to is very good at technical factors, but very few are good at safety and response factors.”

Wyvern launched its UAS focus earlier this year and has a strong interest and usage from industry, Meehan said. A handful of U.S. entities have used the process, along with Aero-Photos.ca, a Canadian-based company.

In the next six months, Wyvern expects to be working with clients focused on beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights. “We would bet anyone that this is the most robust program out there for mitigating and benchmarking risk,” he said.