Drones seem to be everywhere – often times where they’re not supposed to be. We regularly read headlines about a near-miss situation where a drone came dangerously close to an aircraft and quick-acting pilots averting catastrophe by disconnecting the autopilot and manually diverting the aircraft.
Regardless, just as Smartphones and Facebook started out as niche fads, drones are here to stay. What’s more, they’ve moved well beyond their initial recreational use of taking aerial photographs and simple movies and are now being used for a wide range of complex tasks. As such, drone technology is rapidly advancing, which is why we’re now seeing them outside our aircraft windows.
“Now that drones are a staple of our skies, there’s a need for regulations,” says G-JET G550 Captain Michael Struempl. “But instead of just regulating them away by applying old aviation standards to a new situation, we need to see drones for what they are and regulate accordingly.” According to Struempl, the problem is most of our aviation regulatory agencies are ill-equipped to do so. Instead of evolving to adapt regulations to new situations (i.e., drones), they all too often attempt to regulate new situations with old standards. It’s like trying to put a round peg into a square hole!
For example, most aviation regulations depend on whether a flight is private or commercial or if an ‘aircraft’ is used over a populated area. “With this approach what you get is a father and a young son going to the nearest electronics store to buy a cheap drone to fly around in their backyard,” explains Struempl. “Although this seems harmless enough, what they don’t know is that their innocent father/son bonding time is likely in violation of aviation law, and that prior to flying the drone they technically needed to apply for CAA approval. But of course to get approval they will first need to get insurance, which typically costs millions of Euro.”
Clearly, what is needed are reasonable regulations that ensure the security and safety of all without restricting the skies to new and exciting uses.