CAA condemns the use of drones close to airports

Following the “possible incident” of a drone hitting a passenger aircraft at London’s Heathrow airport on Sunday (April 17), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has released a statement saying that: “It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment”.

The statement also emphasised that anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and abide by all relevant rules and regulations, to ensure that the UK airspace and its users remain safe.

“Drone users have to understand that when taking to the skies they are potentially flying close to one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world,” it explained.

So while drones may be the 'in' thing right now, they still come with a downside and the recent event only highlights the risks associated with untrained flyers operating the high-tech gadget.

For example, if a drone strikes an aircraft’s engine it could lead to engine failure, and a clash with a cockpit could result in an even greater tragedy.

According to yesterday's (April 18) Evening Standard, David Burrowes of the Home Affairs Select Committee has suggested that introducing licenses for owners of sophisticated models should be explored.

Perhaps the UK industry will soon see something similar to the US's Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) UAS Registration, which asks anyone who owns a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) that weighs more than 250g and less than 25kg to register it before flying outside, being introduced.

At present, the CAA only requires people who use SUAS for “aerial work” to obtain the correct permissions. However, there are additional rules in place with regards to flying near congested areas.

The CAA’s The CAA’s 'Dronecode', for example, explains that anyone who operates a drone abide by the following rules:

  • Make sure you can see your drone at all times and don't fly higher than 400 feet
  • Always keep your drone away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields
  • Use your common sense and fly safely; you could be prosecuted if you don't.

While, drones fitted with cameras must not be flown:

  • Within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures
  • Over congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events

A spokesperson from Heathrow also commented on the incident, stating that: “Anyone operating an unmanned aerial vehicle has an obligation to know the rules and ensure they are capable of operating it safely. Doing so in proximity to an airfield or aircraft is both illegal and clearly irresponsible.

Stronger regulation and enforcement action must be a priority for the Government to ensure that the airspace around British airports remains amongst the safest in the world”.

Thus, it seems that some improvements need to be made and more stringent.

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