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Pilots warn of increased risk in mid-air drone collision

Pilots have warned there is an increasing risk of a mid-air collision involving drones and aircraft.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said the rise in drone use could lead to a “serious incident if users don’t follow the rules”.

Last year, there were 69 reported incidents of drone near-misses with aircraft, up from 29 in 2015 – there wasn’t any in 2013.

BALPA said while it welcomes drone technology users should ensure they educate themselves before use.

“Drones can be great fun and we’re not surprised at their popularity over Christmas as people received them as presents,” said Steve Landells, BALPA flight safety specialist. “However, after a significant increase in near-misses last year it seems not everyone who is flying them either know or care about the rules that are in place for good reason.

“That’s why we’re urging anyone who has a drone to take a look at the Civil Aviation Authority’s ‘drone code’ and be proactive in educating themselves on the rules.”

He added: “While we take no issue with people who fly their drones in a safe and sensible manner, some people who fly them near airports or densely populated areas are behaving dangerously.

“Measures should be put in place that will allow the police to identify and locate anyone who flies a drone in an irresponsible way.

“Owing to the huge numbers of drones being sold, more technological solutions will undoubtedly be required to address this problem and should be mandated.

“These should include, amongst other things, geofencing as standard and a system whereby the drone transmits enough data for the police to locate the operator when it is flown in a dangerous manner.

“If the user has endangered an aircraft, we would like to see the culprit prosecuted; endangering an aircraft has a maximum sentence of five years in prison,” said Landells.


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