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BALPA issues advice on drones to pilots in the wake of the Gatwick incident

BALPA’s information is that Gatwick has been reopened despite the rogue drone or drones remaining undiscovered. We understand that detection and tracking equipment has now been installed around the perimeter of Gatwick and the expectation is that if and when the drones reappear, they will be detected and the airport will close again.

Brian Strutton, BALPA General Secretary, said:

“It is up to the relevant authorities to decide whether it is safe to re-open Gatwick given that the rogue drone is still around and may be expected to fly again.

“BALPA is not aware that any special advice has been given to pilots operating into or out of Gatwick and so we have this morning ensured that all our UK pilots have BALPA’s advice on what to do if they see a drone while flying.

“BALPA remains extremely concerned at the risk of a drone collision.  It is possible that the rogue drones may go undetected around the perimeter or could obstruct the flight paths outside the immediate detection zone.

“Given this continuing threat we have this morning issued our advice to pilots about steps to be taken if a drone is sighted.”

Notes to editors:

A summary of the BALPA and GATCO drone sighting guidelines is as follows:


Pilots: If a drone has been reported, consider requesting a speed reduction:

  • Initially to minimum clean, including during departure
  • On STAR, initial or intermediate approach, request a further reduction to 180kt
  • On final approach observe ATC speed constraints to maintain separation

ATC: expect pilots to request a speed reduction


Pilots: if a drone is seen, inform ATC immediately and pass as much accurate information as possible about the drone sighting:

  • Location
  • Altitude
  • Lateral and vertical separation
  • Was it moving or stationary?
  • Size, shape and appearance (e.g. quadcopter, camera underneath, colour, etc.)

ATC: inform supervisors, neighbouring sectors and pilots on and joining the frequency


Pilots: plan for possible delays or diversions
ATC: plan for possible delays and/or closure of airspace or aerodrome


Pilots: request alternative routeings or radar vectors if deemed necessary
ATC: consider the safety of the operation and avoid the area if deemed necessary


Pilots: file the appropriate safety report as established by your airline.
ATC: file the appropriate safety report as established by your ANSP.

Helicopters are especially vulnerable to the damage that a collision could do. The speeds mentioned in this guidance refer to large aircraft, however, the principle of reducing speed to reduce impact energy still applies. Helicopter pilots should ensure that they use helmet visors if provided.

In the event of imminent threat to the aircraft, none of the above prevents pilots declaring an emergency, taking avoiding action, etc

Further Information:

1.            More information about BALPA’s drone collision testing can be found here.