Airline pilots uneasy about sharing skies with drones

There is currently no law governing the use of drones and both the government and the EU are in the process of drafting legislation to regulate this sector

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Yannick Pace
15 September 2016, 7:34am
Drones cannot be flown over or around an airport unless permission has been granted beforehand
Drones cannot be flown over or around an airport unless permission has been granted beforehand
The widespread use of drones, particularly for recreational purposes, has prompted a number of pilot associations to voice safety concerns after a number of near misses in airports across the world.

There is currently no law governing the use of drones and both the government and the EU are in the process of drafting legislation to regulate this sector.

As the use of drones increases in popularity, a number of local pilots who spoke to this newspaper were also keen to highlight the potential risks involved.

 “What concerns me is the fact that drone operators are not licensed and so they have little knowledge of certain rules,” said one commercial pilot who asked not to be named. “Meaning you can’t be sure that they will stick to them.”

The rules say that flying a drone over or around an airport is not allowed unless permission has been granted beforehand. However this is not common knowledge, added the commercial pilot, so it is not difficult to imagine someone irresponsibly or inadvertently flying a drone into a prohibited area.

“Having an exclusion zone is not enough,” he said. “People need to have a good knowledge of the area. I would be less concerned by someone flying a drone over Gudja than I would be if it were over Birzebbuga because that’s below one of the more frequently used landing paths into Malta.”

Another local pilot who also preferred to remain anonymous emphasised the importance of keeping drones out of restricted areas. “It’s impossible to detect a drone other than by sight, meaning there are very few precautions one can take,” he said.

He said the biggest concern is the ease with which anyone can obtain and fly a drone.

“Until recently one could be sure that anything that was flying was being manned by a trained individual and you could predict how they would react in certain situations. With a drone this is not the case.”

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Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...