Gatwick Dronegate, my thoughts.

 

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Photo Credit Rob Farmer

It has been nearly two months since I ended up woken by a call from BBC 5Live could I comment on the drones flying at Gatwick? How they have stopped for flights for nearly 10 hours?   I then ended up along with other numerous drone operators and company owners commenting, how they were doing it?  Little did we know on the morning of the 20th that the situation would roll on all day and into the 21st of December.  A big news story indeed 100’s of passengers grounded by a drone just before Christmas.  There was other news that day, for example, £85 million pounds in public health cuts was revealed and not one news outlet mentioned this.

My criticism of all news channels from where ever you are in the world, press, media, TV, Radio, and Online will focus on one big story and then other stories slip out unnoticed, unchallenged.  The need for all humans to have every minute detail is blamed on our consuming news for a 24-hour basis and via social media channels we can know what is going on instantly and this can be beneficial and can be detrimental, as always there are pros and cons of social media.

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Photo Credit  Rob Farmar

On the day of the 20th Decembers briefings, discussions and reportings spoke of witnesses from Airline Pilots, airport ground staff, police and members of the public.  An industrial-sized drone, dark in colour, flying for a long period of time in the rain and windy conditions.   On this basis, the airport was closed.  Personally, I don’t believe a major UK airport would be closed if there was no drone or drones.  Then a spokesperson for Sussex police then miscommunicates that there wasn’t a drone,  then it was suggested that it was in fact, the police drone. An innocent couple was arrested and their details all over the worlds media outlets – then fortunately released.   It was outrageous that some media outlets named the individuals, again a symptom of this excessive need for detail by us all as incidents occur.  BBC then reported that all that was miscommunicated by Sussex police and that indeed there were drones at Gatwick.  

People have hooked on to the fact that there were no drones mentioned and every time I do a retweet or repost anything I am shouted down on social media. Some of which has been quite vile.  I am going with the knowledge that I have. There are many opinions that there were no drones because there are no photos or footage and because of what the spokesperson for Sussex police said. However, I go with what was my initial media briefings when I was appearing on various news outlets across TV and Radio. That there were multiple sightings by pilots and passengers.

If there is a serious crime do I need to see a photo to know it occurred? Say for example to know a murder has taken place, I don’t need to see the evidence.  As humans, we need to stop needing all the fine details of cases and crimes and let those dealing get on with investigating.  We may never know what happened at Gatwick and then the copycat incident at Heathrow on the 8th of January. 

Or just a random flight by someone but you can’t deny that the authorities dealt with that incident quickly flights resumed within 1 hour / 90 minutes.

This then lead to a statement being issued by DJI – saying that in summary that it was all false, probably feeling that their products and reputation was being affected.

I think that actually, DJI does the very best to ensure that their drone tech will not fly anywhere near airports and requested sites.  DJI did have a very fair point that drones at airports have been mistaken and then on the investigation has turned up out to be a balloon, a plastic bag and a bat amongst other things.

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Photo Credit  Rob Farmar

Public perception may be down concerning drones,  an increase in drone legislation is not needed as you will never legislate for criminals and those with malicious intentions for those who have the capability beyond the drones that small commercial drone operators and hobbyists fly. You certainly won’t ever legislate for idiots either.

For I while I was saying that this will damage the UK industry, but now really I think it is mainly public perception which has been being damaged and knee jerk reactions for those in authority.  Those with real business needs are not going to stop using drones.

Coventry council planned to ban drones and announced its proposals in early January 2019,  but thank you to Kerry Blakeman of Drone Heights he put forward an alternative and spoke in positive terms and the ban was overturned including the charge that was proposed for commercial operators.   I think it is very interesting that Coventry council u-turn and positive news story that could have been,  has not been reported widely, but symptomatic on the sensationalisation of drone news stories.

The other impacts were obvious that the economic fallout for Gatwick and the flight operators.  Previously it seems that counter drone technology has not been on the top of the agenda but the threat has been very much in everyone’s minds. Dr. Catherine Ball, World Congress of Drones said in 2015 “anti-drone is the new drone”.  There are a number of companies who have developed counter drone technology and in a future post, I will be looking at what those companies offer.

What we need is for airports to be secured by using anti-drone technology, as commercial operators that will help as everyone can then breath a sigh of relief when there will be fewer air incursions.  Positive news stories on drones maybe then reported more, perhaps I can dream about that.

It doesn’t matter if you think there was a drone at Gatwick or not, the most important thing is that all those that fly drones keep positive and look for positive ways to promote their business, hobby or interest.  This was never about professional drone operators and hobbyists this was something else.  I think a cause of concern that the perpetrators were not located and where does that leave the aviation industry except reeling at not taking this particular threat seriously. It took this shocking long term grounding of planes at the busiest days of the year to start tender processes at the largest airports in the UK.  Once the technology is in place this then we can all breathe a bit easier.

I am personally hoping that we never see days like that again.

The Drone lass

 

Please, note links to all related articles are in the text above and go to external websites.  Please do take time to read further on this subject.

 

 

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