Flight risk

Mac Format - - APPLE TALK -

With ref­er­ence to your ar­ti­cle on the Be­bop Drone, it de­scribes the thrill of fly­ing the copter out of di­rect vis­ual sight. The rules strictly pro­hibit out-of-sight use for the very spe­cific rea­son that the VHF con­trol sys­tems are purely ‘line-of-sight’, be­yond which a drone risks be­ing out of con­trol. The re-land but­ton de­scribed will also not work once the drone is out of sight/range.

As a pro­fes­sional pi­lot, I am both in­ter­ested in these fly­ing ma­chines and, in equal mea­sure, hor­ri­fied at the thought of them fly­ing around out of con­trol and head­ing my way. Even an 800g ma­chine rep­re­sents a threat to other air­craft, and if ingested into the hot sec­tion of a jet en­gine will likely cause ter­mi­nal dam­age fol­lowed by fail­ure, fire, or both. These ma­chines are be­ing sold in their thou­sands, with­out train­ing, and in the wrong hands present a clear threat to life. I think the ar­ti­cle in­ad­ver­tently risks en­cour­ag­ing po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous and illegal use. The Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity rules (http://bit.ly/ mfavi­a­tion) are sim­ple and clear: line of sight only, 400-foot max­i­mum height, out­side a three-mile ra­dius of aero­drome traf­fic zones, and away from per­sons, ves­sels, ve­hi­cles or struc­tures. Peter Bruce

Chris­tian Hall says… You make an in­ter­est­ing point, Bruce, and it is worth high­light­ing the dan­gers. We tried to min­imise this dan­ger by fly­ing over fields in good con­di­tions, at a height of about 12 me­tres max. As the ‘re­turn to home’ but­ton re­lies on GPS it works out of sight, just not out of range – around 300m with the Be­bop. Drone fly­ing, if you’ll ex­cuse the pun, is re­ally tak­ing off, so the Euro­pean Avi­a­tion Safety Agency is de­vel­op­ing EU-wide safety stan­dards, which it says will be as high as those for manned air­craft. Given the pop­u­lar­ity of drone video footage though, the author­i­ties will have a bat­tle on their hands to stop the YouTube gen­er­a­tion from fly­ing drones where they shouldn’t!

In the fu­ture, drone pilots will have to ad­here to much stricter safety rules.

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