Drone Users post Gatwick 2018
Christmas 2018 will be remembered by approximately 140,000 people as the festive season ruined by a drone.
Sightings of a drone over Gatwick Airport prompted its’ closure for 3 days
Speculation on who the perpetrators were resulted in confusion and two people were initially arrested but then released and exonerated shortly after.
What is certain though is that the UK and the rest of the world woke up to drones and how they can cause problems if used without training and consideration.
Concerns of copycat disruptions were well founded with similar occurrences at Heathrow Airport and most recently, Newark airport in the USA.
But how will this affect the use of drones in the UK?
Drone pilots wanting to fly for business, to be able to get valuable consideration or financial reward from the use of their drone already have to undergo training and testing to receive a certificate of competence and recommendation. This NQE certificate provides evidence to the CAA that the drone operator is trained and safe to fly commercially.
Once qualified, Operators can apply for their PFCO.
The Air Navigation Order – Updates
The ANO, the rules of the air, were already updated at the end of July 2018 to clarify the operating limitations of drones and to introduce a new separation distance away from airports.
The required separation distance from airports is now much clearer and the ANO states that drones must be “1km away from the boundary of a protected aerodrome or airport”. This boundary is clearly marked on charts and maps and for most airports is the boundary fence if unclear.
There is provision within the updates for the mandatory registration of drones over 250g and the training of pilots in safety and etiquette, even for hobbyist use, although this will probably be an online course much more basic than the PFCO course.
This will come into effect in November 2019.
Reaction to Gatwick 2018
Speculation is widespread about what extra restrictions could now be put in place to try and prevent similar disturbances. There has been suggestion that the separation distance be increased to 5km from major airports but this is purely speculation.
Other restrictions may be suggested but one thing is for certain, the qualified, certified drone operator is not the cause of the problem. Most having invested heavily in equipment and training to be able to operate.
What is required is more information at the point of sale of equipment to consumers explaining the rules, risks and requirements of operating a drone safely, even as a hobbyist.
If the perpetrator of the Gatwick Drone flights is ever found we may eventually get some answers as to why they held the airport to ransom.
What is clear is that rules and regulations, no matter how restrictive, will struggle to stop troublemakers from exploiting disruptive technology for their own means, at great cost to others.