drone aircraft near miss
23 Jul 2015

Should we be Worried about Drone Aircraft?

“A near miss between a passenger jet and a drone has prompted warnings about safe use of the hobby aircraft.” BBC News

With reports of drones in the media, littering airspace and endangering aircraft and their passengers questions must surely be being raised. Just how worried should we be about drone aircraft and what is being done to keep them under control? Reckless use of drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) could cause at the very least delayed flights, if not fatalities.

What are drone aircraft used for?

British airspace is seeing increasing numbers of drones in operation with numbers soaring in recent years.  They are used by defence contractors, surveillance specialists, police forces and infrastructure firms.

Whilst companies and public bodies require permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly UAVs, members of the general public using them for recreation and photography do not. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the CAA to catch reckless drone users that endanger flyers with increased threat of drone aircraft collisions.

With unauthorised use of drones having risen by a third in the UK in the past year, something has to be done.

What is being done to protect our airspace and our privacy?

“Drone users must understand that when taking to the skies, they are entering one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world,” says Tim Johnson, CAA policy director. “They must be aware of the rules and regulations for flying drones that are designed to keep all air users safe.” The Guardian

The situation with unauthorised drone users has sparked politicians and campaigners to call for a review of civil drone use.

Reckless use of drones that could endanger an aircraft is a criminal offence. This was reiterated in a warning issued by the CAA as a result of six serious incidents around the country have been recorded in the last year. This includes a recent drone aircraft near miss incident at Heathrow.

In a bid to persuade operators to stay safe and avoid the danger of collision, the CAA has launched a “drone code” and also hold a drone safety awareness day.

Operators are being urged to put safety first and to refer to the “drone code” which details all user guidelines.  It states that recreational drone owners should always keep their craft in their line of sight, that is within approximately 500m and it must not fly higher than 122m. Some recent incidents have reported drone aircraft altitudes as high as 600m, causing near collisions with aircraft.

The code also says that drones carrying cameras must stay at least 50m away from people, vehicles and structures and must not approach a large group of people closer than 150m.

Drones are here to stay

With drones providing such important benefits both today and for our future they are definitely here to stay. Their uses are vast and are certainly set to improve our future if managed correctly. With them already being used for search and rescue, wildlife protection, the scattering of ashes and mapping, as well as them delivering stunning photography and filming it seems it is a technology we already cannot live without.

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