A digital world map could be created for pilots, according to an expert (Picture: MOD).
UK

Drones Should Be On Pilots' Maps, Expert Says

The standards director at the trade association for remotely piloted aircraft said the future is robotic.

A digital world map could be created for pilots, according to an expert (Picture: MOD).

A digital world map could be created for pilots, according to an expert (Picture: MOD).

Drones should be properly integrated into traditional aviation's mapping systems to avoid potentially deadly collisions, a standards expert has said.

A total of 117 near-miss reports have been filed, data up to late last year showed, although none have involved fatalities.

James Dunthorne told a conference in Belfast, a digital world map could be created so pilots can clearly see where other craft are.

The standards director at the trade association for remotely piloted aircraft said the future is robotic.

It comes as the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has launched a £2m competition for proposals to tackle the future threats of drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

The competition, run by the Defence and Security Acceleratorator (DASA), the MOD's innovation hub, will look for "robust" and "cost-effective" next-generation solutions to counter the threats posed by hostile UAS.

Last month, the drone no-fly zone around airports was extended to give extra protection to aircraft at Royal Air Force bases and airports.

The new legislation bans drones from being flown within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of the end of a runway without permission.

Previously, only a 1km (0.6 miles) no-fly zone was in place.

The MOD is looking for "cost-effective" ways to combat hostile UAS (Picture: MOD).
The MOD is looking for "cost-effective" ways to combat hostile UAS (Picture: MOD).

Mr. Dunthorne said: "We have a good framework of regulations, we just need now aerodromes to be able to integrate drones into those areas of airspace effectively.

"If you have only got disparate systems how do we integrate air taxis, how do we integrate drones, how does a helicopter pilot know where a drone is when it is flying around?

"These are the things where we need a single map of the world in terms of air transportation so that any particular aircraft can see any other particular aircraft."

Before Christmas, Gatwick airport ground to a halt after reports of drone sightings.

The runway at the UK's second busiest airport was closed for 33 hours, causing cancellation or delays to around 1,000 flights.

Mr Dunthorne added: "What we saw at Gatwick happen was a huge amount of confusion, a lack of preparedness, there was also not the right technology installed to be able to combat these machines.

"Since that has happened this has raised awareness around aerodromes around the country and they have changed the way they are doing things."

He said airport managers had since created emergency action plans.

Managers at Heathrow shut down the airport for just over an hour rather than two days.

Military equipment on a roof at Gatwick Airport last year to counter drones entering the airfield.
Military equipment on a roof at Gatwick Airport last year to counter drones entering the airfield.

Mr Dunthorne said: "It was clear that once they realised there was not a threat they were back up and running again."

He added: "You can have as many laws and regulations out there as you want but criminals will always do criminal behaviours.

"You can outlaw murder but there will always be people out there who commit murder. Regulations will only go so far."