News and views
27 Aug 2019

Sleep deprivation

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For years we have been teaching people about the effects of fatigue on a pilot’s ability to perform. This is obvious when you think about the single pilot flying you across Georgia Straight in a turbo otter, but not as obvious when you think about flying a drone.

What are the symptoms of sleep deprivation?
  • Slower reaction times (think obstacle avoidance)
  • Inaccurate reactions
  • Reduced hand-eye coordination (such as piloting skills)
  • Spacial awareness

Fatigue can be caused by many factors, but the main cause that we are going to focus on with this article is sleep deprivation.

In the media over the years we have learned a lot about the different types of impairment and distractions that are leading causes of fatality such as drunk and distracted driving.

Although it has been reported and many incidents have made the news, few realize how much sleep deprivation can impair a person. Sleep deprivation, in fact, is the #12 cause of fatal car accidents in the United States and is the most common driver impairment.

Studies have recently found that sleep deprivation and blood alcohol have a startling similarity. If wakefulness exceeds 16-17 hours people are likely to be impaired.

Time awakeEquivalent Blood Alcohol
17-19 hrs0.05%
18-20 hrs0.10%

The bottom line is that you should avoid driving, flying a manned aircraft, or flying your drone if you have been awake for more than 17 hours. This means that if you have a 1 hour flight to complete and you have been awake since 06:00, start your flight by 22:00 so you can be on the ground by 23:00.

Note: There are other types of fatigue to be aware of. Sleep deprivation is also impacted by circadian rhythm.