Category Archives for "Civilian Drones"
As the debate about drones and potential privacy issues continues to heat up we are seeing an increasing array of anti drone kit on the market. These two popped up on my twitter feed just today. DroneShield which seems to be some kind of radio frequency (RF) detection and interference system, using ground based antennae. And rather more bizarrely Skywall 100, an enormous shoulder mounted, net firing bazooka!
Now I am sure there have been some gross invasions of privacy using camera equipped drones and I understand the commercial issues around industrial espionage. But in the UK at least, no-one owns the airspace above their land. So long as the drone is operated at the required distance from people, structures, vehicles etc. then I don’t see what right anyone would have, however indignant they were, to shoot down a drone.
The UK also has regulations around filming enshrined in the Information Commissioner’s CCTV Code but these did not envisage mobile airborne cameras so there is nothing in there about ‘netting’ offending equipment.
There is a clear need for security and enforcement agencies to be able to combat threatening drones – the Dutch are trying out birds of prey – but let’s hope that there is not a proliferation of random attacks on drones which are operating in accordance with the law. How to be sure of that? Always hire an operator who holds the correct CAA Permit for Aerial Work.
Drone near-misses with passenger aircraft are in the news today. The British pilots’ union BALPA is calling for trials to determine what damage a typical 1.5 kg drone would do if it collided with an aircraft in flight. This is on the back of 23 reported near-misses in UK airspace, including some at London’s flagship Heathrow Airport. See the BBC’s piece at BBC NEWS .
As a professional pilot with 30 years’ experience I think they might be overstating the case a little bit. I don’t disagree for a moment that impact with a 1.5 kg machine, incorporating a chunk of LiPo battery, at 150 knots plus is likely to cause some significant damage. It is the probability of the impact that seems pretty low to me, and probability is the other half of the risk equation.
If you take the number of drones in operation and subtract from that all of the platforms that are operated sensibly and safely away from aircraft, the figure will be very small. Compare that to the number of birds in the sky at any one time and it becomes tiny – and bird strikes are not that common in most places. And even if someone tried to deliberately fly a drone into an aircraft, there is no guarantee of success. As a drone pilot I know it wouldn’t be that easy.
Bottom line? Let’s have a sensible and reasoned debate about this but in the meantime the concern highlights the need to use competent and qualified drone operators for your aerial imaging needs.
We are seeing an increase in the use of unregulated ‘in-house’ drones for business – that is companies operating their own drones for internal work but without a Permit to Fly for Aerial Work (PFAW) from the CAA.
Our understanding is that the practice is illegal. If you operate a drone for any commercial purpose, even if you are not taking any money for it, you still need the PFAW and a certified remote pilot.
This may sound like sour-grapes from someone on the inside of the drone industry but really it is about promoting the safe and compliant use of drone technology in the commercial environment. It is those who insist on operating outside of the regulations who risk getting us all a bad name!
Something else to consider is that the drones almost certainly aren’t properly insured. Most employer liability and public liability policies simply won’t cover injuries or damage due to drone operations.
So you could lose your £1,000+ machine AND be faced with a substantial damages claim…