Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

February 18, 2016

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Pilots demand action following drone near misses

Pilots say a spate of serious near misses involving drones highlights the need for urgent action to integrate them into airspace safely and prevent a collision with other aircraft, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has reported.

This follows an investigation by the UK Proximity Board last December, which looked at 7 incidents involving drones: 4 of which were classed as the most serious category A, where a serious risk of collision existed. In one case a drone came very close to colliding with a Boeing 737 which was climbing out of Stansted. Other category A incidents took place at Heathrow, London City and Manchester.

While many pilots say they welcome the growth in drone technology and can see important applications for them commercially and recreationally, they feel a collision with a commercial airliner or helicopter could be catastrophic. They say action must be taken now to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Due to the rise in sales of drones, especially over the Christmas period, the British Airline Pilots Association is concerned the number of incidents could rise further over the next few months. Drone operators often have little or no handling experience or understanding of the rules of the air.

The association is now calling for stricter rules and a registration system so drone operators can be easily traced and prosecuted for any irresponsible flying. Pilots also want technology to stop drones from being able to fly in areas where they could meet commercial traffic to be routinely fitted to the devices.

BALPA Flight Safety Specialist Steve Landells says: “Pilots can see that drones can be useful and fun to fly, but these near misses are becoming too regular an occurrence. We must act now to protect passengers and flight crew and make sure a catastrophic crash does not happen. The authorities must enforce current regulations and make sure new ones, such as compulsory insurance and registration, are brought in without delay.

“Pilots want to ensure technology to prevent drones from flying in areas of dense air traffic are put in place and also want drone designers to liaise with Air Traffic controllers to look at ways they can adapt drones to ensure they can be seen easily on radars.  

“As the growth of drones flying by hobbyists continues, education and training are increasingly becoming key. Anyone flying a drone must do so in a safe and sensible way. If you don’t follow the rules or show consideration to others when flying you should be aware of the severe penalties you could face.”

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