Remember D.R.O.N.E - improving UAV safety

25th November 2016
Joe Bush

With safety concerns arising from the growing number of commercial drones sold in the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has updated its UK Dronecode in an effort to improve safety. The fact is that the skies above the UK, much like our roads, are becoming more congested and incidents of drones narrowly avoiding collisions with passenger planes are becoming commonplace.

Earlier this year a drone came within 60ft of an A320 aircraft as it flew over London, on its approach to Heathrow, and four more incidents were reported in October. There have also been calls for ‘geo-fencing’ to be introduced that will automatically stop UAVs being flown into danger areas such as airports.

As well as the concern over mid-air collisions, the threat drones can pose to people on the ground is also very real and in September, a League One football match between Bradford City and Bristol Rovers was suspended for several minutes after a drone was spotted flying above Bradford’s Valley Parade pitch.

With Christmas fast approaching, it is possible that a large number of people will receive a drone as a gift, but just how many of these will be aware of the safe flying regulations? As such, the CAA revised code has turned the five main drone safety tips into a mnemonic, spelling ‘DRONE’, to help people remember:

  • Don't fly near airports or airfields
  • Remember to stay below 120m (400ft) and at least 50m (150ft) away from people
  • Observe your drone at all times
  • Never fly near aircraft
  • Enjoy responsibly

The CAA is also working with air traffic services provider NATS to educate retailers to ensure that when people purchase drones, they are also provided with the relevant information and guidance on safe drone flight.

The launch of the new Dronecode follows an industry-first report into user behaviour, attitudes towards, and responsible use of drones. Among the findings of the report it was discovered that 69% of owners thought retailers were responsible for drone safety education at point of sale, but only 36% were made aware of the Dronecode when purchasing a drone, and only 39% of drone users had heard of the code since its launch in 2015.

Tim Johnson, Policy Director at the CAA said: “Drones have significant potential and the new Dronecode, which forms the basis of establishing a responsible attitude toward drone flight amongst consumers, will help to protect the safety of the wider aviation industry. It will also help those expected to use drones to improve current operations, from farming to traffic, from healthcare to logistics. Ultimately, people must use their drones safely, and responsibly.”

Oliver Meakin, CEO at Maplin added, “During the lead up to Christmas, a key time for drone purchases, we are working with the CAA and NATS to make sure that all of our drone buying customers are made aware of the new Dronecode and Drone Safe website, along with the importance of using their drone safely.”

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