Keep your stupid drones away from piloted aircraft, rages CAA

Alarmed authority notes near miss between passenger jet and quadcopter

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has complained of six incidents since May of last year in which boys and their toys almost collided with piloted craft in British airports' airspace.

An Airbus A320 passenger jet managed to miss a hovering drone at Heathrow by a mere 6m (20ft) last July, a frightening proximity considering the likely outcome of a quadcopter's entrance into a jet engine at 700ft above ground level.

"Buzzing" incidents are too common, complained the CAA, which cited a UK Airprox board publication which counted six between May 2014 and March 2015.

In each incident, pilots flew their hobby craft within 20ft of aeroplanes at UK airports.

"Drone users must understand that when taking to the skies they are entering one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world," said Tim Johnson, CAA director of policy.

Toy pilots could find themselves thinking over their actions for five years at Her Majesty's pleasure, if found guilty of recklessly endangering an aircraft, or any person therein.

The CAA has now launched its "Dronecode" to ensure hobbyists are aware of their responsibilities to fly safely and legally.

The Dronecode initiative follows complaints that on each occasion of near-collision with passenger aircraft, the drone pilots were flying their toys well above the established height limits, with some reported as high as 2,000ft above ground level.

Following buzzing incidents at a blaze in southern California last weekend, state politicians have encouraged legislating for emergency services to be able to knock them out of the sky when drones endanger other aircraft.

There is currently no duty to obtain a licence for private drone pilots (although commercial operators, or pilots who fly them to make a profit, must register). The toys themselves do not need to be registered. None of the hobbyists who have buzzed passenger aeroplanes at British airports have been identified. ®

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