Drones have really been taking off (pun intended) over the last several years. They’re like those little toy helicopters that you may have played with as a kid, except they don’t wobble around and crash into the ground after ten seconds. You can actually fly drones a significant distance and do cool things like attach a camera to it or, in Amazon’s case, potentially have it deliver packages to your front door. On the flipside, however, they are also coming dangerously close to crashing into planes on a frequent basis.
According to new figures, there has been almost one near-miss between a drone and a plane per week so far in 2016, with 49 more “proximity reports” occurring since April 2014. The 15 reported near-misses throughout the first four months of this year are more than half of the total from 2015, proving that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with right away. I can’t say these figures are that surprising – letting anybody fly robots in the sky wherever they want was obviously going to cause chaos at some point – but it’s a little strange that harsher regulations on drone flight weren’t put into place sooner.
In the UK, the rules that do apply to drone users state that the person must be able to see the drone at all times and that it cannot be flown higher than 400ft. Additionally, a drone fitted with a camera cannot be flown within 50m of people, vehicles, buildings or over top large gatherings. That’s all well and good, but the enforcing of these regulations is where the problem lies.
Queen Elizabeth II recently stated in her speech to the British Parliament that new regulations on drones would be introduced in a forthcoming Modern Transport Bill.