The number of reported incidents of near misses between GPS drones and planes prompted the British Airline Pilots Association to notify the authorities and the general public for the need of immediate action to include drones in the airport safety to avoid collision accident in the airspace, which could be disastrous.
One incident happened in the vicinity of Manchester Airport, where a pilot was about to shift his Boeing 757 jet to the right when he saw a drone flying 30 meters near the jet. It startled the pilot as he was about 450 meters from the ground. Incidents like this are disasters waiting to happen.
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According to the report, the drone was so close to the aircraft, that a little 15 meters more above and 30 meters to the left, there would have been a catastrophic collision, said an expert. A Department of Transport representative said that there are existing tough precautionary measures to ensure the separation of airspace use of large drones and other aircraft.
Just last month, there were seven reported mid-air near-collision incidents. Four of those are included in the Category A, the group where there is a high risk of impact. Pilots urge the authorities to devise a tougher sanction against individuals that don’t follow rules and continue to fly in the restricted zones as this put lives at risk.
Just last month, a drone nearly collided with a Boeing 737 when the latter was about to take off from Stanstead Airport in London. If the drone had been sucked into the jet’s engine, there would had been lives wasted unnecessarily.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) current law states that large GPS drones are prohibited from flying within 150 meters of prohibits the flying of large drones within 150 meters of private or commercial properties. Also all drone operators are required to show flying skills certification to get flying permission.
“We must act now to protect passengers and flight crew and make sure a catastrophic crash doesn’t happen. The authorities must enforce current regulations and make sure new ones, including compulsory insurance and registration, are brought in without delay,” says Steve Landells, a BALPA flight security specialist.
Oftentimes, drone users that don’t follow the rules are novice pilots, who have little to no experience and understanding on rules concerning drone flying.
Basing on the unofficial reports of the number of GPS drones sold over last Christmas season sale, which is said to be over a million units, BALPA estimates that near-misses incidents will increase in the next few months.
“Pilots can see that drones can be useful and fun to fly, but these near misses are becoming too regular an occurrence,” Steve said. “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.”
In 2014, only four incidents of near misses with unmanned aerial vehicles were reported, while in the first nine months of 2015, 16 cases were confirmed.
BALPA is also pushing for the technology to develop features that can prevent GPS drones from going to areas that are off limits.
Drones equipped with GPS drone trackers has geo-fencing, which allows users to set specific perimeters and prevent drones from flying in the restricted areas.
Landells adds, “Pilots want to ensure technology to prevent drones from flying on 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.”