ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — Flight Safety Foundation today urged world governments to step up their regulation and enforcement of recreational drones.
In a letter to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Secretary General Fang Liu, Foundation President and CEO Jon Beatty said, “Based on a number of recent incidents, we are increasingly concerned that uncertificated, untrained recreational drone operators are flying small UAS near airports and manned aircraft. … The proliferation and operation of small drones by people without aviation experience is becoming one of the most significant hazards to manned aviation. This poses unacceptable risks to aviation safety.”
The Foundation urged ICAO to accelerate the promulgation of appropriate Standards and Recommended Practices to regulate recreational drones – also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and by a number of other terms – and to encourage ICAO member States to adopt corresponding regulations and consider mandating technologies such as geo-fencing and altitude limiters for equipment used by hobbyists.
“We fully recognize and appreciate the transformative nature and salutary benefits of drones,” Beatty said, “but one thing is crystal clear: No justifiable bases exist to treat recreational drones any differently than drones flown for a commercial purpose.”
Among the recent drone incidents cited by Beatty were the Feb. 14 crash of a Robinson R22 in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S., as an instructor and student pilot reportedly were maneuvering to avoid a drone; the October 2017 flight of a drone within 5 ft (2 m) of a commercial aircraft landing at London Heathrow Airport; the October collision between a drone and small commercial aircraft during final descent to Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec; and the September 2017 collision of a recreational drone and a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter near Staten Island, New York.
Although some civil aviation authorities – including the European Aviation Safety Agency and those in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Singapore and the U.K. – currently regulate all drone operations, others, including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, due to legislative restrictions, have had to limit “hobbyist” regulation to registration. “The days of governments taking a ‘hands off’ approach to recreational drones should be over,” Beatty said. “As recreational drone operations grow, States should take action to close any gap between recreational or commercial drone rules and ensure that all operations are subject to governmental regulation and oversight,” he added.
A copy of the letter is available here.
About Flight Safety Foundation
Flight Safety Foundation is an independent, nonprofit, international organization engaged in research, education, advocacy and publishing to improve aviation safety. The Foundation’s mission is to connect, influence and lead global aviation safety.
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