Category Archives for "Ethics"

Drone Near-Misses

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 Near missyears’ 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.

In-House Drones For Business

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!

If you need some drone work and you don’t have a PFAW there are plenty of people who do. Contact  ARPAS-UK for details of your local operators or check out Wessex Aerial Photography .

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…

Drones, quadcopters – What do you call them?

DJI Phantom 2 LEDs

Drones, quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters, UAV, UAS – a whole new language has emerged and the correct use of terminology continues to provoke debate, some of it heated and passionate.  Every now and again you might see someone posting a comment in a forum or in one of the growing number of multirotor user groups on Facebook, exclaiming, “They’re quadcopters, not drones!  Drones have weapons that kill people! “

These voices of protest are promoting a lost cause.  The word drones has been adopted by the world’s media and is now the de facto word for referring to any unmanned aircraft whether its payload is a DSLR camera or a Hellfire missile.

It should not come as any surprise to see journalists refer to camera equipped quadcopters in this way.  The designers, manufacturers, and marketeers who have brought these devices to us refer to their inventions as drones.

  • DJI Innovations call them drones (from dji.com: “DJI – The World Leader in Camera Drones/Quadcopters for Aerial Photography”)
  • 3DRobotics call them drones (from 3drobotics.com: “3DR is committed to creating the best drones available“)
  • Parrot call them drone – ardrone2.parrot.com

Besides, if a news editor wants a headline are they going to use ‘camera equipped quadcopters‘ (too long), ‘UAV‘ (readers won’t know what that means), or ‘drones‘?

Predator and Reaper drones

Drones used in warfare for reconnaissance and attack are a controversial subject, but there are several sides to this story.  Rather than repeat what you’ve read on a blog or a single article on the subject, why not read up on the history of this weapon and develop a more balanced view.  The book, “Predators – the CIA’s drone war on al-Qaeda”, by Bryan Glyn Williams, gives the history, the facts, and the ethical arguments on both sides.  Some of those facts may surprise you.