Common sense absent in BA UAV incident
As you will be aware a British Airways plane was hit by what is thought to have been a drone, or unmanned vehicle, near Heathrow airport on Sunday. As Heathrow is one of the world’s busiest airports it does seem rather misguided to start flying your UAV about and common sense would incline most people not to.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) points out: ‘It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.’
An investigation into the incident is currently ongoing.
This appears to be the first of its kind (a drone actually hitting an aircraft) in the UK and could provide a step-back for sensible UAV users as they are awaiting UAV regulations to be loosened.
Companies that are looking towards the future of commercial applications are hoping that UAVs could operate in airspace they are currently not allowed in.
For instance, the buzz around the Amazon delivery drone is unlikely to happen until restrictions are changed. At the moment, in the UK you cannot fly your UAV above crowded areas, near roads and least of all near airports. Nor can you fly your UAV beyond line of sight (BLOS).
However, some companies are still hopeful. Qinetiq recently flew a couple of UAVs BLOS in Snowdonia, North Wales, for environmental monitoring. The company has begun utilising airspace in remote areas of Wales but is optimistic that this could expand in the future.
Right now in the US the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is reviewing a report on the use of Micro UAS. This report comes after the FAA created a register for all UAS weighing more than 250g. The new report could see the use of UAVs expand into areas previously forbidden by aviation authorities.
There is no doubt that commercial drones will be of benefit for agricultural surveillance, media and environmental surveying. Let’s hope that the minority who think it’s a good idea to buzz them around A320s don’t ruin the party for the rest of the sensible UAV owners.