The growing number of Drones being sold in the UK and increasing reports of air misses involving drones has been exercising other airspace users. I was today invited to attend the regional airspace users working group held at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland. There were representatives from the RAF, NATS, the Coastguard helicopters, general aviation and local gliding and flying clubs.
I gave a short presentation from the Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) or Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) perspective. I was able to detail the types and sizes of RPAs or drones, the CAA regulations under which we operate, and issues of avoiding other airspace users. I also touched on the public beta of GEO Fencing by DJI using data sourced from the US-based AirMap company. There was much interest and plenty of questions from the appreciative audience.
We also had an input from a member of the UK AIRPROX team that investigates reports of near misses between aircraft, military and civilian, in UK airspace. Drones feature much in recent statistics. In 2014 there with 6 AIRPROX reports involving drones. This jumped to 29 incidents in 2015 and there have been 6 so far this year. It was accepted that a collision between a drone and a relatively slow general aviation or high speed military aircraft could easily be catastrophic to both the drone, obviously, and the aircraft and its occupants. There is a need for greater education of both recreational and commercial drone operators to avoid such risks.
One of the main issues for drone flyers is knowing who to speak to within the Air Traffic Service when planning to fly near airfields. For qualified RPA pilots we cover where to get the civilian ATC contact details on the internet during our ground school training. However, the contact details for military ATC is not publicly available. I learned today that this will change is a few months when information on military aerodromes will also be posted on the internet.
A very useful meeting and some useful contacts made.