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expert reaction to gatwick airport drone

Comments on the recent disruption at Gatwick airport caused by a drone.

Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Director at DH Future Systems, said:

“Current UK legislation bans small drone operations within 1 km of an airfield and restricts them to operating less than 400 feet above the ground elsewhere. Most commercially available drones have built-in ‘geo-fencing’ that prevents them from taking off within 1 km of an airfield.  The news reports of the Gatwick incident suggest that this is intentional disruption with the drones operating within the airfield boundary.  The issues here would appear to be how do you detect and disable an intentional breach and how in future you would prevent reoccurrence.  Neither are easy although there are many companies and organisations worldwide addressing these challenges. Preventing people intentionally breaking the law is never easy.  Clearly this incident will accelerate the work into detection and disabling systems but an airfield size of Gatwick is a large area to police as is being demonstrated by the time taken to identify the perpetrators.

“Preventing accidental incursion is a lot easier through operator licensing, education, operating envelope restrictions, etc. As in all such cases, it will be important not to introduce draconian restrictions that prevents the greater societal benefits from the legal use of drones.”

Declared interests

None received. 

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