Pilots say more must be done before drone causes aircraft disaster, following incident at Gatwick

Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport

A drone flying close to aircraft at Gatwick causing flying to stop twice has prompted the UK pilots’ association to renew calls for better regulation and education.

The incident yesterday (Sunday July 2) led to the airport closing the runway for two periods of nine minutes and five minutes.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) says it has for some time been voicing its concern about the rise in near misses involving drones.

It’s calling for better education of users, compulsory registration during which the rules are made clear and more high profile prosecutions for offenders.

BALPA Flight Safety Specialist, Steve Landells, said: “Yet another incident at Gatwick involving drones shows that the threat of drones being flown near manned-aircraft must be addressed before we see a disaster.

“Drones can be great fun, and have huge commercial potential, but with a significant increase in near-misses in recent years it seems not everyone who is flying them either know or care about the rules that are in place for good reason.

“While we take no issue with people who fly their drones in a safe and sensible manner, some people who fly them near airports or densely populated areas are behaving dangerously.

“We believe a collision, particularly with a helicopter, has the potential be catastrophic.

“Measures should be put in place that will allow the police to identify and locate anyone who flies a drone in an irresponsible way.

“Owing to the huge numbers of drones being sold, more technological solutions will undoubtedly be required to address this problem and should be mandated.

“These should include, amongst other things, geofencing as standard and a system whereby the drone transmits enough data for the police to locate the operator when it is flown in a dangerous manner.

“If the user has endangered an aircraft, we would like to see the culprit prosecuted; endangering an aircraft has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.”