The British Airline Pilots Association, BALPA, say new UK drone laws, restricting drone-flying activity above 400 feet within one kilometre of an airport, “don’t go far not enough.”
With 93 incidents between aircraft and drones in 2017 alone, the new regulations are expected come into force on 30 November 2019.
This follows a year-on-year increase of reported drone incidents with aircraft. Additionally, the new laws will require owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register them with the Civil Aviation Authority, CAA, and for drone pilots to take an online safety test ensuring the UK’s skies are safe from irresponsible flyers.
Saying the restrictions don’t go far enough to eliminate the threat of a serious collision. BALPA Head of Flight Safety, Dr Rob Hunter, comments: “We are pleased that the Government has recognised the dangers and is taking the recent dramatic rise in near misses seriously, but it is crucial these new law changes are right and address the problem properly if we are to avoid a potential catastrophe.
“We are urging the Government to consider following the example set by Australia where unmanned operations must not be flown within 3 nautical miles (around 5.5km) of an airfield.”
Aviation Minister, Baroness Suggs said: “We are seeing fast growth in the numbers of drones being used, both commercially and for fun. Whilst we want this industry to innovate and grow, we need to protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones in our skies. These new laws will help ensure drones are used safely and responsibly.”
Drone users who flout the new height and airport boundary restrictions could be charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft. This could result in an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both. Users who fail to register or sit the competency tests could face fines of up to £1,000.
BALPA is not anti-drone and we understand the commercial considerations in not making laws too restrictive. But safety must come first and allowing hobbyist or commercial drones to be flown in an area where they could come in to contact with a manned aircraft, increases the risk of a catastrophic collision.”
The CAA and airports will have the power to make exceptions to these restrictions in specific circumstances.
By Rob Hall