Tougher Laws Needed To Prevent Drone Disaster

Pilots are warning of a ''disaster'' unless drones are subjected to tougher regulation.

The warning from the British Airline Pilots' Association comes as the runway at Gatwick was closed for parts of Sunday evening after one flew close to the airport.

Four EasyJet flights were diverted and one British Airways service was sent to Bournemouth Airport following the closure, while other flights circled the West Sussex airport.

BALPA is calling for compulsory registration of drone users to allow police to track down people flying them irresponsibly.

The union's flight safety specialist, Steve Landells, said: ``Yet another incident at Gatwick involving drones shows that the threat of drones being flown near manned-aircraft must be addressed before we see a disaster.

``Drones can be great fun, and have huge commercial potential, but with a significant increase in near-misses in recent years it seems not everyone who is flying them either know or care about the rules that are in place for good reason.

``We believe a collision, particularly with a helicopter, has the potential be catastrophic.''

He added that as the number of drones being sold takes off, new technology should be looked at to address safety concerns.

``These should include, amongst other things, geofencing as standard and a system whereby the drone transmits enough data for the police to locate the operator when it is flown in a dangerous manner,'' he said.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: ``Due to reports of a drone observation in the vicinity of the airfield, runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 18.10 and 18.19, and again from 18.36 to 18.41, resulting in a small number of go-arounds and diverts.

It is not the first time a drone is suspected of infringing on airspace near landing strips.

Last month an airline pilot was forced to take evasive action after one came within 20 metres of his plane as he prepared to land in Edinburgh.

The Loganair flight had been descending at about 4,000ft at the time, and despite the safe landing police warned there could have been ``far more serious consequences''.

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