If they're sharing the same airspace as airliners, then drone operators should require the same permits to fly as regular aeroplane pilots. That's the argument poised by the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which will today meet with a parliamentary committee to discuss the rules currently governing who can use drone technology.
For the most part, Balpa only seems concerned with larger commercial drones, but its fears remain valid if applied to smaller consumer drones too -- any drone that enters into airspace used by traditional airliners could cause a significant threat to the passengers and crew onboard should a collision occur. As a result, Balpa's general secretary Jim McAuslan has called that "any large drone should be as safe as if there were trained pilots at the controls, so operators must have an equivalent level of skill and expertise.”
Currently, drone operators need only to demonstrate basic piloting skills to appease the Civil Aviation Authority, while drones must be kept 150m from a city centre or an event hosting more than 1,000 people. Drones are also required to keep a 50 metre distance from any person, building or vehicle -- but there are hundreds of YouTube videos that clearly show these laws being ignored. While it's clear that drone technology offers exciting new possibilities and that the industry must be given fair opportunity to grow, sensible extensions of current regulation to protect the general public seem likely to become an inevitable necessity. [Independent]