Near misses with illegally flown drones have prompted the aviation regulator to launch a campaign warning ‘recreational’ users to operate them safely and not endanger other aircraft.
The drone awareness initiative will see the launch of a Drone Safety Awareness Day featuring a dedicated online resource where existing and potential users can access drone safety advice.
Regulators have issued a list of tips called the ’Dronecode’ specifically targeting amateur users.
In a statement, they said the initiative follows ‘a number of recent incidents’ involving drones and various aircraft.
They added: ‘On each occasion, the drone users appeared to be flying the devices well above height limits with some reported as high as 2,000ft from ground level and in areas where large aircraft are present.’
Rules state that drones must not be flown higher than 400ft and must be kept within the operator’s ‘visual line of sight’.
In March, a drone came within 50ft of a passenger plane as it came into land at Heathrow Airport and one was suspected of coming within 20ft of an aircraft in a similar near-miss last year.
CAA’s director of policy Tim Johnson said: ‘We want to embrace and enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology, but we must ensure that this is done safely, with all airspace users in mind’.
He warned: ‘It is imperative that people observe the rules when operating a drone.
‘Drone users must understand that when taking to the skies they are entering one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world – a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders, light aircraft and now drones.
‘When doing so, they must be aware of the rules and regulations for flying drones that are designed to keep all air users safe.’
Stephen Landells, a flight safety specialist at BALPA, said: ‘Drones are here to stay and will have important benefits for the UK in the future.
‘Drone operators need to put safety at the forefront of their minds when flying, though, and ensure there is no conflict with commercial manned traffic.
‘Pilots want to ensure the operators are adequately trained and the correct precautions are put in place to avoid collisions in the air.’
Johnson added: ‘Interest in drones has developed rapidly in the last couple of years and our main concern is to ensure owners of drones can enjoy this rapidly growing technology safely and have regard for all other airspace users when doing so.
‘Our cross-industry initiative… sets out the simple rules that all drone users should follow to ensure they comply with the law and support the safety of all airspace. If they do this they can avoid prosecution and a possible jail term or fine.’
Phil Binks, a drone expert at NATS, said: ‘Drones can be fantastic tools and we’re sure to see more and more flying in UK skies in the coming years.
‘But with that growth comes the need to remind people of their obligations as airspace users and that safety always has to be the top priority.’
For further details and an animated guide visit http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx??catid=1995&pagetype=90&pageid=17054
• 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.
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
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