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A remotely piloted drone struck a Skyjet turboprop passenger plane as it made its approach to land at Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec, Canada last Thursday.
The drone craft, which was being operated by a person as-yet unknown, was reported to have been flying at a height of about 450 metres / 1,500 feet and at an estimated 3,000 metres from the runway at the airport. As the Skyjet passenger aircraft came in to land, it was struck by the drone causing minor damage to the aircraft. Fortunately, the aircraft, which was carrying 8 passengers, was able to land safely.
Interim ‘Transport Canada’ regulations (to be approved next year), first introduced in March and amended in June, make it a violation for recreational drone to be flown within 5.5 kilometres from an airport, and 1.8 kilometres from a heliport without having special permission. Drone operators must also not fly their drones above 90 metres in height. Violation of the current regulations can warrant a $25,000 fine.
According to Canada’s Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office, 1,596 drone incidents were reported to Transport Canada in 2017, 131 of which were deemed aviation safety concerns.
This was, however, the first time that a drone had actually struck a passenger aircraft in Canada, and Mr Garneau is reported as saying that it could have been “catastrophic” if the drone had collided with the engine or cockpit.
Drones flying too close to airports have now become a problem worldwide. Back in July, for example, a drone being flown dangerously close to Gatwick airport in the UK meant that four Easyjet and one British Airways flights had to be diverted.
In another incident in Essex back in August, a 28-year-old man from Kirby Cross was apprehended by police, after flying his drone too close to a railway station. The man was reportedly trying to use the drone to get photos of a Tornado steam engine and was reported for a breach of his Air Navigation Order. According to the Police, the man had flown the drone within 50 metres of other people and property out of their control. Legally, a drone should not be flown within 150m of crowds or built-up areas.
The man was punished by way of an agreement contract with Essex Police and was given a community resolution.
In the UK, new government rules mean that drones weighing 250 grams and above now need to be registered online. Owners of these drones will also have to take safety awareness tests to determine their knowledge of UK safety, security, and privacy regulations. The government hopes that these new rules will help to develop accountability among drone owners and encourage them to act responsibly.
Drones are part of a new industry where the technology and products have been developing before the law has had an opportunity to catch up. Drones clearly have many productive, value-adding, and innovative business uses, and they have been tested and tipped for wider use in the future by brands such as Amazon for parcel deliveries. A move towards autonomous vehicles and new transport technologies means that drones currently have a bright future when used responsibly and professionally. The fact that drones are widely and easily available (with minimal restrictions) to individuals as well as companies, as shown by the many aircraft near misses, indicates that most people would welcome the introduction of regulations that contribute to public safety. It is important, however, that any new rules take account of the rights of the majority of responsible drone users, and don’t restrict the commercial potential of drones.