Following significant increases in UK near miss reports causing disruption to air traffic and risking a major incidents involving drones/UAV's, aircraft and helicopters during the past year. Drone Assist, powered by Altitude Angel has been introduced and is available for free download on Android and iOS from Saturday 3 December.
This presents drone pilots with an interactive map of areas of airspace used by commercial air traffic. Drone operators planning to fly near these areas - usually around airports and airfields - must by law avoid them or exercise great caution to stay outside of prohibited airspace. It will also contain a ‘Fly Now’ feature that shares the user/drone flight location with other app users, and the wider drone community, helping to reduce the risk of a drone related incident in the UK’s airspace.
Drones in any case must always be kept well away from aircraft, airports and airfields.
The app has been developed in partnership with Altitude Angel, working on future drone traffic management solutions, and also includes the location of ground based hazards that might pose a safety or privacy risk, such as power lines, schools or sports venues. It does not however replace any legal obligation of the drone operator to maintain visual contact with his /her drone.
Phil Binks, NATS drone lead, said: “With drone incidents on the rise, it’s clear many people are unaware of the rules and their legal obligations as pilots. Drone Assist is designed to help everyone abide by the rules, identify areas of controlled and restricted airspace and help them enjoy flying whilst ensuring their safety and the safety of other airspace users.
The UK Airprox Board, which investigates reports of aircraft near misses, has so far reported on approximately 50 drone incidents this year up from 11 during 2015. With drones expected to be among the top gifts received this Christmas, NATS is urging would-be drone pilots to be sure of the rules and regulations before taking to the skies.
Richard Parker, founder and CEO of Altitude Angel commented: “We are delighted to be working with NATS, and are proud that the UK is taking a global lead in addressing this issue as we work to keep our skies safe for all aerial citizens. Partnerships like this are an essential first-step to bringing together drone pilots and other stakeholders, all working towards greater airspace safety, and laying the foundation for a future where drones and manned aircraft can coexist without incident.”
In a recent study by the CAA, 90% of people agreed that adherence to the CAAs Dronecode is important but only 40% of drone owners were aware of it.
Tools like Drone Assist are designed to help, as is the new website launched by NATS and the CAA called www.dronesafe.uk. The site, which is easily accessible directly within the app, provides further information on the rules around drone flying in the UK, including the CAAs Drone Code and information on CAA-approved training courses.
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