DSR Working with the RAF to Promote Drone Safety
Despite the amount of ‘near miss’ press coverage, very little factual information was known about the consequences of mid air collisions between drones and planes / helicopters until recently.
The most in depth study on the subject to date was commissioned in a joint exercise between the Department of Transport, Military Aviation Authority and the British Association of Airline Pilots.
The full study is available to view online here but in summary, manned aircraft were found to have significant vulnerabilities in test of mid air collisions with drones of all sizes. Even the 400 gram toy or small hobbyist craft were found to cause significant damage (more so than heavier models with covered motors in some instances). So it’s clear that air safety is a matter for all drone pilots – from casual hobbyists to full time professionals.
Figures from the Airprox Board show a rise in ‘near miss’ incidents between civil manned aircraft and drones across the UK. Figures rose from just 6 incidents reported in 2014 to 70 in 2016 –a statistic that’s not surprising given the explosion of drones in both the commercial and hobbyist markets but a worrying one nonetheless.
Drones have a max altitude of 400 feet following recent changes in the law which keeps them separated from the vast majority of commercial air activity which takes place above this height. One area, however, where there is more danger of conflict is with low flying military aircraft.
DSR were delighted to be invited to meet with Sqn Ldr Sam Hodgkinson at the RAF Safety Centre in High Wycombe. He is the RAF’s representative in charge of working with the drone community at all levels to ensure we can share the airspace safely. Despite being used to flying slightly larger aircraft himself, there was not a hint of ‘anti-drone’ feeling at the meeting. In fact he was at pains to say that the main thrust behind the initiative isn’t to limit or stop drone activity but rather to educate drone pilots (particularly hobbyists who may be less aware of the necessary planning and procedures) on how we can all work together to share the airspace safely.
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0800 515 544
Safe drone pilots will always fly in accordance with existing CAA requirements and the Drone Code. They may also wish to consider the RAF suggestions which are designed to reduce the likelihood of mid-air collision with a low flying aircraft.
A freephone number and email address (below) allow pre-flight reporting directly to the team responsible for coordinating low level flight activity which allows military pilots to adjust their routes where appropriate and also inform the drone pilots of planned activity that may affect them.
It is then a case of communicating to pilots the need to stay alert for military aircraft during their flights, consider wearing high visibility clothing and also to enter their flights on the Drone Assist app or at DroneSafetyMap.com – all items that are great practice to get into the habit of for pilots at all levels anyway. The advice if you are flying and believe that there may be an aircraft at risk of collision with your drone is to descend your craft immediately and safely land it as soon as possible, remaining on the ground until the danger has passed. Simple steps but such an important message to get out there to try and safeguard the pilots, crew and passengers (if carried) as well as everyone on the ground.
DSR have put together a series of blog posts to keep our website visitors informed of the important contact numbers and procedures. We’ll be continuing to find new ways to work with our members and the drone community as a whole alongside the RAF to ensure that they have all the necessary information to fly both safely and legally in our shared airspace.