A drone specialist is warning against ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to the Gatwick Airport chaos which would greatly restrict commercial drone use.
The major airport was ground to a halt for more than 36 hours this week and hundreds of thousands of people were affected by cancelled flights after drones were spotted hovering above its runway.
But Drone Safe Register (DSR), which represents around 500 professional and certified drone pilots, is expressing concern the events will cause politicians to rush to make changes which will ‘not be fit for purpose’.
A spokesperson for the organisation said proposals to widen airport perimeters from 1km to 5km would have made ‘zero difference’ to the incident this week.
They said: “In the commercial sector there is already a large body of regulation that governs the deployment of drones for commercial purposes and it works well.
“In fact, the regulations are in many ways too restrictive.
“Any future action taken to minimise or eradicate the misery caused by airport closures as seen at Gatwick this week, needs to be taken in consultation with the commercial sector and exclude them from further restrictive procedures or legislation.”
Steve Fisher, a commercial drone pilot who lives and works a few miles from Gatwick Airport, says he has flown drones for commercial purposes adjacent to the airport multiple times without incident.
He said: “Every time I need to work near the airport around the commercial district of Manor Royal, I have to unlock my aircraft formally by providing the appropriate documentation from the Airport themselves, NATS, police and the drone manufacturer.
“I then complete substantial risk assessments and flight plans, before the work is completed.
“There has never been any issue and those involved with granting the permissions have always been helpful, efficient and compliant.”
A spokesperson for DSR said: “From the information released so far, the events at Gatwick Airport this week have little to do with the Commercial Drone industry, which PwC has forecast will contribute in excess of £40bn to the UK economy by 2030.
“They have more to do with the agenda of an organised and planned criminal group, whose political weapon of choice is expected to be a homemade drone or drones.
“Therefore, Drone Safe Register request that cool heads prevail in the face of an unprecedented event and that the steps taken to prevent this happening again in the future include all stakeholders, in particular those operating in the safely regulated commercial sector.”