This is something that's almost a bit of a buzz word or phrase right now, but earlier this week I saw a link to a parliamentary session where drones were one of the topics of conversation. To save you a bit of time, see this LINK and forward to 14:43 where the discussion starts so that this all makes sense.
The first and probably most worrying part of this whole session to me is the complete lack of understanding or grasp on reality of the situation as a whole. The opening question itself poses the first question "there are hundreds of thousands of drones in operation, and there were 50 near misses reported this year alone". How does this equate to the amount of other incidents non-drone related this year in terms of numbers? A quick look at the airprox entries suggests its significantly higher some 170+ reports in total. Not to be cynical the drone reports never seem to be conclusive and one could argue that if not identifiable the pilot defaults to reporting a drone, now I'm not suggesting this is the case but with one high profile case turning out to be a plastic bag it does make you wonder. This is then followed up with a question around if Baroness Sugg is aware of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) report into the effects of a drone strike on an aircraft, now if you have read this report or have followed the social media threads about it, you'll understand that most of the industry seems to have dismissed it due to the way in which the tests were carried out were at best dubious! More importantly this shows a clear lack of understanding from Baroness Randerson around the validity of this report and in deed puts her further out of touch of the real issues.
The whole sequence of events here is simply not an acceptable way forward, with BALPA vice chairman saying that they look forward to the early introduction of new legislation, and while this holds some weight, I question the world that these people live in. You only have to take a look at the legislation that exists today to understand the rules are fairly robust and relatively easy to follow, so why then is there a big problem with operators flying in a manner that endangers people property and aircraft? The answer really isn't that difficult to fathom out, if like me you are active on social media in and around drone groups and forums, you'll see some examples of insane flying at heights and distances that make you squirm, and in locations where most fully understand that flying a drone is just out of the question, yet they seem to be untouchable, even though they have incriminated themselves on social media, and have been reported by a number of people to the CAA and the Police forces, the issue is obvious and one that Lord Berkeleys question hits on the head "who is going to capture the perpetrators of people flying drones illegally, and what are they going to do about it?" In my opinion this is the crux of the issue, and wholly the reason why we have seen some quite frankly horrendous flying. Some time ago the CAA offloaded the issue of dangerous flying to the police force as they have a lack of man power to be able to deal with it, which at first glance makes sense, until you look further at it. If you wish to report dangerous flying we are told to contact the police either on 101 or 999 depending on the severity, now if the police are struggling to cover basic duties due to government cuts where do you think the priority lies for the report of someone flying a drone? I’d suggest its fairly low down on the list, beyond that if they do turn up they have such a lack of understanding of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) that they fail to understand what they should do, this is by no means a dig at the Police, make no mistake they work harder than ever, whether you like them or not they provide an invaluable service and I take my hat off to them, but I can't help but feel they have been dumped on when it comes to drones and given no real support. If that's not bad enough I’m confident we have all seen or know someone who has or is working illegally with Drones without a PFCO (CAA Permissions for Commercial Operations), now to me this is something that’s in breach of the ANO and should be reported directly to the CAA, yet here we are in 2017 with some 3500 commercial operators in the UK trying to make a living, but fighting the illegal operators with little to no assistance from the authorities, even though I know several have been reported with supporting evidence and nothing seems to be changing. So, you see the real issue is enforcement, changing the legislation is just going to confuse everyone and result in no difference what so ever, you can bring in whatever powers you like but if there is no one to enforce it, it’s a futile knee jerk response to a situation we find ourselves in.
To come back full circle to this session linked to above, these are the people that seem to be in control of the future legislation around the use of drones, to sit back and make no response to a consultation is taking the power away from us to influence the future of drones in this country, simply put, sitting back is not an option....................................
Please feel free to leave comments on this one as I know it’s a highly emotive subject, it would be good to hear your views and thoughts, and lastly but most importantly, safe flying