LONDON- The UK Civil Aviation Authority has issued a call to all drone operators in the UK, urging them to act responsibly and avoid flying their drones near helicopters operated by emergency services when they are responding to incidents.
This step is in response to a series of instances where drones have caused disruptions to the flights of emergency helicopters, including air ambulances.
UK Drone Pilots Warned
In collaboration with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has created new video guidance to educate drone operators about the risks associated with flying in close proximity to emergency helicopters and the potential consequences of such actions, particularly in critical situations involving severely ill patients.
Throughout 2022, emergency service helicopters reported a total of 13 cases (nine in 2021) in which pilots felt that drones had come too close to their aircraft. Notably, six of these incidents occurred in the vicinity of the Royal London Hospital helipad.
Over the past year, Yorkshire Air Ambulance flights have been affected on five separate occasions due to encounters with drones.
In the event that a drone operator observes or becomes aware of any helicopters operating in proximity to their drone, the safest and most responsible action to take is to land the drone promptly and allow the other aircraft to proceed without disruption.
It is crucial for all drone operators to maintain a safe distance and refrain from flying their drones in a manner that could impede the efforts of emergency services during their response to incidents such as road traffic accidents, fires, floods, and rescue operations.
Suppose a drone operator is actively flying their drone in the vicinity of an ongoing emergency incident. In that case, it is mandatory to cease flying immediately unless explicit authorization is granted by the emergency services to continue.
In this scenario, the following guidelines must be adhered to:
- Comply with any temporary flight restrictions that are enforced.
- Exercise extreme caution to avoid obstructing the operations of emergency services helicopters.
- Uphold and safeguard the privacy of all individuals involved in the emergency situation.
Jonathan Nicholson, a spokesperson representing the UK Civil Aviation Authority, emphasized the importance of fostering the development of drones in the UK while ensuring their responsible and safe use, whether for recreational purposes or beyond.
He particularly stressed the significance of using common sense, especially in situations involving emergencies, where drones have been employed to capture footage of incidents but have led to delays for air ambulance helicopters.
Captain James Booth, who serves as a pilot for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, highlighted the potential consequences of drone encounters during emergency responses.
He expressed concerns that if a drone is detected while they are en route to an emergency, it could result in delays in providing critical care to patients.
Swift access to expert trauma care is often vital in such cases, and any delays in reaching a patient or transporting them to a hospital can significantly impact their well-being.
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