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Act now to prevent drone disaster, warn pilots after U.S helicopter collision

Pilots say laws must be put in place urgently to prevent a serious air accident caused by a collision between manned aircraft and drones. It comes after the U.S Army confirmed that one of its helicopters collided with what appears to be a civilian quadcopter and sustained damage to a main rotor blade and window.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association has been warning about the dangers drones pose for several years. Results of collision testing carried out by BALPA, the Department for Transport and the Military Aviation Authority earlier this year showed that drone impacts on aircraft windscreens and helicopter rotors could be catastrophic, even at relatively modest speeds with small drones. It also highlighted how different a drone strike is to a bird strike and that the industry and regulator need to look afresh at the threat drones pose.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said:

“This collision is a wake-up call. Luckily on this occasion the helicopter landed safely. But we don’t want to rely on luck and we simply cannot wait for a fatal accident before something is done.

“We now have evidence that drones pose a potentially life-threatening risk to aviation and at the same time we’re seeing a rise in in the number of cases of drones being flown irresponsibly close to aircraft and airport. That’s a recipe for disaster and action must be taken.

“We are encouraged that the Government has taken onboard calls for a registration and licensing scheme for drones and drone users, but we can’t rest on our laurels now.

“BALPA is keen to see details of what this new legislation will look like and is continuing to work with the Department for Transport to make sure drones can be safely integrated in to the sky.

“We need to control this proven threat before there is a disaster and lives are lost.”