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Old December 7th, 2014, 09:10 AM   #1
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Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

Nothing to do with filming or commercial use, but does seem to show that some users are not using common sense.

Drone ?near miss? with passenger plane close to Heathrow airport investigated | World news | The Guardian
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Old December 7th, 2014, 10:14 AM   #2
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

Truly totally stupid activity flying a drone up into the flightpath of a jet either landing or taking off. So a clearly dangerous activity and unlikely to have been carried out by a trained pilot. They couldn't trace the drone operator / pilot and I haven't read any details of what type it was.

DJI Phantoms have an airport proximity cutoff switch - or so it says in the software. This prevents take off within 1.5 miles of category A major airports and then introduces a rising height height ceiling from 35ft at 1.5 miles to 400ft at 5miles. For the smaller airports the takeoff restriction is .6mile.

But the question is whether this is just stupid behaviour or if it's illegal behaviour? Amateur use of drones is still a very grey area whereas professional use is clearly defined. Unfortunately I'm sure it won't be too long before some idiot causes a serious incident or accident.

Or maybe it was just a fly-away . . . and I've had one of those.
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Old December 7th, 2014, 01:57 PM   #3
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

A BBC report on the same story.

BBC News - Heathrow plane in near miss with drone
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Old December 7th, 2014, 06:44 PM   #4
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

The more reports you hear like this, the more it seems inevitable that legislation is going to become stricter.

At least in the UK, it seems that commercial use has got reasonably sorted out. Licensing and rules, yes, but not so draconian as to force people out of business. So what about the non-commercial idiots?

I think one inevitability is that eventually, all drones sold will have to have a unique identifier which gets registered on purchase - a bit like a car number plate. And if sold or scrapped, it's the sellers responsibility to make sure the change of owner gets registered. It may even be that such is required to be retro-fitted to all drones.

And I think such an "identifier" may have to take the form of a transmitted radio code, a little like a transponder. Such could also mean that airports and aircraft would also be able to "see" such far more easily and quickly, as well as identifying who is responsible.
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Old December 9th, 2014, 12:14 PM   #5
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

Presumably on the back of this incident, a more general BBC news piece on the subject of flying drones.

BBC News - Where you can and can't fly a drone
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Old December 9th, 2014, 02:41 PM   #6
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

Terrorism is opportunistic. Those intent on bringing down a jet aren't deterred by regulations.
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Old December 9th, 2014, 06:38 PM   #7
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

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Terrorism is opportunistic. Those intent on bringing down a jet aren't deterred by regulations.
Terrorism opportunistic? I don't think so. The highest profile terror attacks have involved a high degree of planning and forethought. It may be impossible to stop such as one man attacks on individuals, but terrorists seem to want the publicity generated by "spectacular" incidents, and security screening has been able to thwart many plots. But it's hardly surprising that security services must be monitoring the whole drone business as a potential new threat.

But so far, the discussion hasn't been about terrorism - though it only needs a single incident for that to change.

It's been about accidental damage through stupidity (flying near an airport and/or too high) or malfunction (loss of control of a drone). There are numerous incidents of damage caused to aircraft through collisions with birds, even crashes. A drone may be significantly heavier than a bird, and more solid - the more drones we get in the skies, the higher the risk becomes.

Even if a drone strike didn't actually cause a crash, it would almost certainly do very expensive damage to an airliner, and the grounding of an airliner would cost even more. Airlines may have to endure birds as a natural hazard, but if they suffer a large financial loss through a stupidly flown drone, they are likely to want to sue - or failing any chance of reimbursement, see an individual prosecuted. That means that at the very least there is going to have to be put in place some method of registration and unique identification of each drone, and it would be most sensible if that was electronic, if it broadcast an obligatory transponder type signal.

No doubt such as drone manufacturers will whine about increased costs, but ..... tough. From a lawmakers point of view, if they don't do something, and a fatal crash does eventually happen, the cry from the media will be "why wasn't legislation in place to stop this happening!?!"
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Old December 9th, 2014, 08:34 PM   #8
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

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Terrorism opportunistic? I don't think so. The highest profile terror attacks have involved a high degree of planning and forethought.
The planning you reference would include identifying the holes in security (the "opportunities"). That's all I was referring to.
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Old December 10th, 2014, 12:25 AM   #9
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

We are going to be F***ed by the idiots like this who fly these things into places like Heathrow. I've been to HR numerous times, and to think that someone drove over there, maybe to the short term parking lot, and flew it out of there, just pisses me off. Why? Because we all will pay for this stupid behavior. Given this situation, even I would support having to get a license to fly one. It is worth noting, however, that there is a long flight path into Heathrow over heavily populated areas. There is no doubt that someone could accidentally fly a drone into commercial airspace. But the reports say that one of the drones was seen around 700 ft. and another, on another day, at 1500 ft. A plane at that altitude is very close to Heathrow, within a few miles at most?

We need fines not banning of the drones, or commercial pilots licenses. Something stiff like a $10k fine for flying into civilian airspace. There's lots of precident. If you are out sailing in a race and don't give way to a ferry, you can be fined that much (here in Washington State), I witnessed a sailor lay their flying spinnaker on the back car deck of a passing ferry during a race and end up paying a hefty fine. You can bet they didn't do that again!

As to terrorism, nothing can stop that if that's what they want to do. They always seem to find a weak spot, as they did in 911. It's just a question of where the next one will be found. We are talking about democracies, not dictatorships. There's no way to fully protect ourselves. I don't want to live in a country with everything sew up tight. Sounds like 1984. Oh right. We are way beyond that now. ...
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Old December 10th, 2014, 09:57 AM   #10
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
That means that at the very least there is going to have to be put in place some method of registration and unique identification of each drone, and it would be most sensible if that was electronic, if it broadcast an obligatory transponder type signal.
Broadcast to where? The height of the transmitting antenna means everything at high frequencies. If you're staying below 400feet AGL, your signal isn't going to get very far unless it has a lot of wattage behind it. Totally impractical for a craft the size of the average UAV being discussed here. Not to mention, air traffic controllers don't even look at general aviation aircraft transmitting at 1200 because it totally clutters their display. They would be even less likely to watch UAV's on their scope.

Registration for UAV's above a certain size and weight is somewhat doable. Transponders, not so much. Maybe a hard coded registration in the controller's firmware which is registered. That way, it could be moved from one craft to another if necessary to continue operations in a commercial environment. That keeps the liability where it belongs.

It's good to see that steps are being taken by responsible manufacturers to use GPS to keep the craft out of airport operations areas.

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Old December 10th, 2014, 10:47 AM   #11
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

There is a new transponder rule going into effect around 2020 which will require aircraft to be equipped with a position reporting transponder to facilitate closer spacing. ADS-B explained for more info. I assume that at least some UAVs will be required to carry them. Evildoers would likely be carrying something other than a transponder.
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Old December 10th, 2014, 01:13 PM   #12
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Re: Drone Near Miss At Heathrow

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Broadcast to where? The height of the transmitting antenna means everything at high frequencies. If you're staying below 400feet AGL, your signal isn't going to get very far unless it has a lot of wattage behind it. Totally impractical for a craft the size of the average UAV being discussed here. Not to mention, air traffic controllers don't even look at general aviation aircraft transmitting at 1200 because it totally clutters their display. They would be even less likely to watch UAV's on their scope.
Broadcast to whatever/whoever is doing the interrogating, if it's a "transponder type" system. As such it shouldn't add too much to power requirements, as it will only be transmitting when interrogated and then only in short bursts. Add to that that it may only need to transmit AT ALL if it's getting close to somewhere it shouldn't be, and power wise it becomes totally possible. We're only talking about a necessary range of a few kilometres and line of sight, even at a couple of hundred feet.

Yes, a potential terrorist could disable such a system - as with a "real" aeroplane - but first and foremost the worry is about what I earlier called "accidental damage through stupidity (flying near an airport and/or too high) or malfunction. Obviously the system should be as difficult as possible to disable, though I accept a clever enough terrorist may hack it. But in a way there's still a benefit to the security services there - at really sensitive sites the very appearance of a drone which isn't squawking at all would be seen as a significant threat in itself.

Leaving airports aside, then also imagine a scene that a large number of the emergency services have been called to. Photographers/media have come with drones and one or two are causing a real nuisance - whose are they? With what I envisage, a means of addressing the "transponders" comes with the command vehicle, and a means of finding out who they are registered to.
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