The Law and Drones

There has been a substantial rise in the popularity of drones. There has been incredible video footage captured by a drone of the inside of the burning Primark building in Belfast’s city centre shown recently on TV one year after Bank Buildings was engulfed in flames.

Drones can be very useful but it has recently been reported that an airliner carrying up to 186 passengers was forced to take avoiding action after a drone was spotted, a near miss report has revealed.  The airliner in question was an Airbus A320 approaching London Gatwick.  The pilot saw the drone when he was at 518 metres above Gatwick Airport.  He had to carry out a banking move to the right but this resulted in being only 80-100 feet away from the drone.

The UK Airport Board (UKAB) said that the drone was being flown above the maximum permitted height of 400 feet and was within controlled airspace.  It has stated that this near miss on 28th April 2019 was in the highest category of risk.  More recently the pilot of a Boeing 747 was approaching London Heathrow on 6th June when he saw a yellow and orange quadcopter pass down the left side of the plane and there was another incident involving an Airbus A319 at an altitude of 6,500 feet above London Gatwick on 25th May when the Captain of the plane spotted a drone that was metallic looking and reflecting light.  It passed down the right hand side of the aircraft and was very close to the right wing.

One will recall the drone “attack” that disrupted Gatwick Airport for three days in December 2018.  This cost the airport £1.4million.  The airport was closed for 36 hours and then shut down again briefly on 21st December after multiple report sightings of a drone or drones in the vicinity.

As soon as a drone is being used commercially and money is being paid to the drone user then drone licence is required. This may be obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The Civil Aviation Authority’s Code of Conduct, the Drone Code, sets out rules for drone users, including staying below 400 feet and flying at least 160 feet away from buildings and people.  In March 2019 the drone no-fly zone around airports was extended to protect aircraft.  In England and Wales new legislation came into force banning the gadgets from being flown within 3.1 miles of airports.  Previous to this the no-fly zone was 0.6 miles.

The bottom line is to follow the UK regulations. Happy flying.