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Growing disquiet from airline industry over drone use

A representative of commercial airlines has expressed concern over the growing use of drones, or Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs). And if this chorus of disapproval grows louder, tighter UK drone regulations could follow.

Drones are being flown around UK airports, despite it being illegal to do so without the expressed permission of air traffic control. Airlines worry passengers’ safety is being put at risk as a result. Tony Tyler, head of International Air Transport Association (IATA), described drones as “a real and growing threat” to civilian aircraft.

“I am as excited as you are about the prospect of having pizza delivered by a drone, but we cannot allow [drones] to be a hindrance or safety threat to commercial aviation,” he said, delivering a speech in Singapore.

“The issue is real. We have plenty of pilot reports of drones where they were not expected, particularly at low altitudes around airports. There is no denying that there is a real and growing threat to the safety of civilian aircraft.”

“We need a sensible approach to regulation and a pragmatic method of enforcement for those who disregard rules and regulations and put others in danger,” he said.

Concern from IATA coincides with reports of four drone-related incidents with aircraft in the UK in the space of a single month last year. Both of the incidents were classified as “Category A”, meaning there was a serious risk of a collision. In total, 30 incidents involving unmanned aircraft were reported in 2015, up from six the previous year.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) is also worried by stray drones. Speaking to the Guardian, Steve Landells, a Balpa flight safety specialist, said drone designers should liaise with air traffic controllers “to look at ways they can adapt drones to ensure they can be seen easily on radars”. Balpa also wants technology to be fitted to drones to stop them going anywhere near commercial air traffic.

In the United States, the government has begun a registration system for all drone owners to help identify irresponsible pilots. Balpa is lobbying for the same system to be adopted in the UK.

The rules governing UK drone operators are quite clear, especially when it comes to flying near airports. Without clearance from air traffic control, drones aren’t allowed to be operated in or near Class A, C, D or E airspace. But most experts agree drone pilots need more education about the rules of safe flight, especially amateurs. If that approach fails, and more incidents occur, tighter regulation could be the only way to prevent them.

Commercial drone pilots are required to undergo training in order for the CAA to grant them permission to operate. They also have to present insurance documentation to the CAA during that process. If you’re an existing or prospective commercial drone pilot, visit Insure4Drones.co.uk for a competitive quote today.

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