A drone standards expert says remotely piloted aircraft should be added into the global mapping systems used in the aviation sector to help pilots avoid collisions.
James Dunthorne, standards director for the Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, has called for a single map showing all airborne aircraft, according to the Press Association.
A total of 117 near-miss reports have been filed, data up to late last year has shown, although none have involved fatalities.
Last December Gatwick faced an onslaught of delays and cancellations after drones were spotted flying in the airport’s airspace. The drone operators may have had help from staff working at the airport itself, Gatwick’s chief operating officer recently said.
“What we saw happening at Gatwick was a huge amount of confusion, a lack of preparedness, there was also not the right technology installed to be able to combat these machines,” Dunthorne said at a conference on drones at the Innovation Factory in West Belfast.
“Since that has happened this has raised awareness around aerodromes around the country and they have changed the way they are doing things.”
He said airport managers have since created emergency action plans but noted that laws and regulations can only do so much: “criminals will always do criminal behaviours.”
“We have a good framework of regulations, we just need now for aerodromes to be able to integrate drones into those areas of airspace effectively.
“If you have only got disparate systems how do we integrate air taxis, how do we integrate drones, how does a helicopter pilot know where a drone is when it is flying around?
“These are the things where we need a single map of the world in terms of air transportation so that any particular aircraft can see any other particular aircraft.”
He added that there was clearly a risk of mid-air collisions from drones being flown in areas where in the past it had been relied on the pilot to avoid those situations from happening.
“Clearly with the number of near-misses that has not been sufficient.
“It is clear that eyes are not good enough for avoiding collisions. Every year we see countless mid-air collisions between manned aviation.
“I knew people personally who have died through mid-air collision through manned aviation, so people’s eyes are not good enough to be able to avoid collisions. What we need is a digital solution to this.”
Last year the Home Office launched a consultation on proposals to bolster stop and search powers in order to allow police to be more rigorous in dealing with people who intend to use drones for illegal purposes in the UK.