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Pilots recognise announcement of new drone laws, but says Government must go further

Pilots have responded with alarm to the announcement of new laws on drones, saying they’re pleased the Government is taking steps but the restrictions need to go much further to make the use of drones near airports safe.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has previously called on the Government to tighten laws on drones after the steep rise in near-misses with aircraft in recent years.

Following some testing BALPA carried out with the Department for Transport and the Military Association Authority that proved the risk to aircraft, new laws were promised.

However, the proposed new laws include limited restrictions that will allow drones to be flown up to 400ft just 1km from an airport boundary. BALPA says that this is a very dangerous situation as aircraft will already be lower than this at this point on approach to an airport, so the new regulations must go further to avoid potential collisions.

BALPA Flight Safety Specialist, Steve Landells, said:

“We’re pleased the Government is taking near-misses seriously and making changes to the law, but it is crucial that these go further to avoid a potential catastrophe.

“We hoped we would see something similar to the regulations introduced in Australia, which state that unmanned operations must not be flown within 3 nautical miles (around 5.5km) of an airfield. Safety in the UK is no less important than in Australia.

“BALPA is not anti-drone and we understand the commercial considerations in not making laws too restrictive, but a hobbyist drone has no business being flown near an airport and allowing this to happen increases the risk of a catastrophic collision.”