Regulations on civilian drones need to be regulated as they are increasingly becoming a “real and growing threat” to the safety of commercial aviation, the International Air Transport Association said on February 15.
“We are only beginning to discover the many potential commercial applications of this technology," said IATA director-general Tony Tyler. "And it would be naïve to think that States and military forces will reduce their use of drones. They are here to stay. But we cannot allow them to be a hindrance or safety threat to commercial aviation."
The Center for the Study of Drones at Bard College said in a report that it recorded 921 incidents involving drones and manned aircraft in U.S. airspace between December 2013 and September 2015. Among those, 36% were considered as “close encounters,” as reported by Martin Abbugao of AFP.
“We found that over 90% of all incidents occurred above 400 feet, the maximum altitude at which drones are allowed to fly,” the center wrote in a report. In 28 of the incidents, the commercial pilot had to maneuver to avoid collision.
“We need a sensible approach to regulation and a pragmatic method of enforcement for those who disregard rules and regulations and put others in danger,” said Tyler. “The issue is real. We have plenty of pilot reports of drones where they were not expected—particularly at low altitudes around airports. A simple Google search will provide plenty of dramatic media commentary on the growing number of these safety incidents.”
Of the 191 states within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), 63 so far have regulations already in place for drones, said Rob Eagles, an IATA drones expert. Nine states have pending regulations, while five have banned their use.
The IATA is supporting the “Know Before You Fly” campaign to educate prospective users about the safe and responsible operation of drones. And the association is working closely with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as well as stakeholders representing airports, air navigation services providers and pilots, to agree a common approach.