Drone clampdown urged by European aviation sector

Mandatory registration of drones should be introduced in Europe and their owners trained to use them, according to aviation associations, following a number of near-accidents with aircraft.

The associations represent groups across the industry including airlines, pilots and airports. The use of drones is rapidly rising in areas such as agriculture, filming, recreational use and for monitoring power plants and oil facilities.

This has led to a rise in the number of near-misses with aircraft as reported by the pilots, especially on approach to landing, one of the most critical phases of flight.

In March, the UK government considered implementing ‘virtual walls’ around key sites such as airports and military bases that would prevent drones installed with a ‘geo-fencing’ system from being able to fly or take off in certain locations.

It is also considering the introduction of a drone registration scheme in the UK which would echo a similar system that was implemented in the US last December. 

Britain's Civil Aviation Authority issued a warning last year after seven incidents in less than 12 months in which drones had flown near planes at different British airports.

Further warnings were issued earlier this year following an incident involving a drone and a jumbo jet at Heathrow Airport.

There are currently no harmonised regulations across Europe for drones, although Europe's aviation safety agency is working on a set of rules.

In a joint statement on Monday, European aviation associations called for the registration of all drones at the point of purchase and resale, mandatory training for drone users and the installation of technology to stop them from going too high, too far or into restricted areas near airports.

"Drones are such an appealing technology that many of the drone users are tempted to use them to the limits - or even beyond," said Dirk Polloczek, president of the European Cockpit Association.

He added that more users were employing modifications to extend drones' flight distance.

Highlighting their popularity, Paris held a drone festival at the weekend, allowing users to race their devices within an enclosed course on the Champs-Elysees.

The joint statement also calls for more to be done to educate users on the risks of flying too high or close to aircraft and for research into what would happen should a drone collide with a plane.

Modern aircraft are tested to ensure they can withstand bird strikes for example, but little is known about what would happen if a drone were to be sucked into an aircraft engine.

"The signatories want to support the effort of the European regulator to produce a robust harmonized EU-wide regulatory safety framework for drones," the associations said.

Drone use could also explode in the near future with companies such as Amazon announcing in July that it was looking to launch a drone delivery service in the UK, for which the government has offered its support.

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