Pilots in the UK are calling for tougher laws regulating the use of drones after a “serious near miss” over London.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) says the UK government should bring forward its programme of drone education and registration in the wake of what it calls a “serious near miss” over London that could have had disastrous consequences.
A Heathrow-bound Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft of an unnamed airline that would have been carrying up to 264 passengers was descending above Clapham Common in June when a drone was seen passing just three meters below its right wing, the association says.
BALPA points to “significant evidence” that shows that a drone colliding with an aircraft could cause catastrophic damage to the aircraft.
“We urge the Department for Transport to tighten urgently the laws to make it illegal to fly a drone within five kilometres of an airport without permission from Air Traffic Control,” the association says.
The incident occurred despite heavily publicised new laws that restrict drones to 400ft, recently introduced in the UK.
The aircraft was at around 3,200ft when it almost came into contact with the drone, which was flying at more than eight times the maximum legal drone height.
Rules of the air
BALPA says people flying drones need to understand the rules of the air and has urged the government to consider bringing forward its requirement for drone owners to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and take online safety tests.
“This near miss is further evidence that tougher laws and enforcement are required to keep drones clear of manned flights,” says BALPA’s head of flight safety, Dr Rob Hunter.
“The drone was being flown beyond visual line of sight and in conflict with aircraft approaching Heathrow Airport.
“That’s why we need the registration and education process in force sooner rather than later, so people flouting the law can be caught and prosecuted.
At the same time, the pilots’ body is also calling for the UK government to consider toughening the law to create a larger no-fly zone around airports.
“We need to ensure people flying drones take responsibility for their actions and do so responsibly with the knowledge that if they endanger an aircraft they could face jail.”