Category Archives for "Civilian Drones"
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…
There are an increasing number of reports of UAV pilots being attacked by angry members of the public. Some are verbally harassed, others lose their vehicles to shotgun blasts, and still others are outright assaulted. Unfortunately, it’s not much of a surprise that the public opinion of UAVs is negative. The media spotlight seems to shine exclusively on the small number of pilots who misuse their craft — and feeds into the growing paranoia that UAVs exist for the sole purpose of spying.
If you’re unlucky enough to be cornered by an irate bystander while flying, here are some steps you can take to defuse the situation.
Start by asking the person to wait a moment while you land your craft. If they give you push back on landing, let them know that if the UAV were to collide with a person it could do serious harm. Once you’ve landed your vehicle, take time to listen to their concerns. Avoid escalating the situation by responding in a calm and collected manner. If you are being yelled at, you can gently make the person aware of how confrontational they’re being by stating, “You seem really angry about this.” This can help to calm them down as many people get lost in the moment and don’t realize they are being aggressive.
Explain what you’re doing and why you’re there. If you’re there for professional reasons, tell them. If you’re there as a hobbyist, explain why you fly UAVs and why you chose that area to fly.
Know the law. The FAA has a few important guidelines for hobby pilots, and it’s extremely important to follow them. You won’t be doing yourself or anyone else any favors by breaking the rules. While we don’t have definitive word when it will be put into action, the FAA is currently working on implementing a registration system for UAVs. Once the system is in place, it’s important to register all of your craft. This registration is expected to be simple and free, so there’s no need to pay a third party company to do it for you.
but those will rarely come up when confronted by the public. People are far more likely to reference privacy laws that simply don’t exist. The cold hard fact is that there is no expectation of privacy in public places. If you’re filming in a public place, you’re safe. Furthermore, as much as people would like to consider their fenced yards private areas, they are not. If they were, services like Google Earth wouldn’t exist. Like it or not, it is perfectly legal to fly a UAV over someone’s back yard.
However, whatever the law may be, people are bound to get riled up if they think their privacy is being infringed upon. That’s why it’s a good idea to wear a head-mounted GoPro and keep it recording as you fly. You never know when situations might turn violent, and having footage of the altercation as evidence will help when pressing charges.
While there isn’t any expectation of privacy in public places, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a considerate member of the community. If the noise of your UAV is disrupting someone’s peace and quiet, consider flying it elsewhere. If you’re looking to get stunning aerial views of beaches or hiking trails, try to do it when such areas are the least crowded. And if someone doesn’t want to be filmed, don’t film them.
There’s no doubt about it, UAVs are cool. If you’ve defused the situation to the point of civil conversation, offer to show the person how UAVs work — what they can and can’t do, flight paths, etc. Since so much of the controversy around UAVs has to do with perceived spying ability, explain how the cameras on even the highest end UAVs are only equipped with an ultra wide angle lens and have no ability to zoom. This makes them a poor choice for spying — a DSLR camera with a telephoto lens would be far better (and cheaper).
Since many fear what they don’t understand, educating people about what is and isn’t possible is key. Most people who find out what UAVs are really capable of find a new appreciation for these fantastic little pieces of technology. By explaining the why and how behind your craft, you may help create another fan — and the more UAV enthusiasts there are, the more innovation we’ll see in their future development.
It’s not pleasant being constantly on guard when flying in public, but until the average Joe knows more about UAVs, it’s just going to be a way of life. As long as you’re prepared to handle each situation in a calm and collected manner, things should (hopefully) go swimmingly.