Editor’s comment: A smooth approach

LARA editor Glenn Sands provides a summary of the latest happenings across the low-fare airline and regional aviation industry.


Finally, the European Commission has recognised the threat that drones pose to commercial aircraft, particularly when flown in the airspace around airports. As drone-related incidents continue to rise, it’s only now that proper rules and regulations are being implemented. This comes after the high-profile shutdown of Gatwick airport between 19 and 21 December 2018. For 33 hours the airport was closed. The impact – 900 flights cancelled and 160,000 passengers affected. The drone operators have still not been found, but are alleged to have had links with the airport. Just three weeks later, Heathrow’s departures were halted after an alleged drone was sighted on 8 January. Fortunately, the closure lasted just an hour in this case.

The new ruling, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 & Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 will ensure that drone operations across Europe are safe and secure.

The new rules include technical as well as operational requirement for drones. They will define the capabilities a drone must have to be flown safely. The common rules will help drone operators, whether professional or recreational, have a clear understanding of what is allowed or not. New drones will have to be individually identified, allowing authorities to trace a particular drone if necessary. Hopefully, this will help prevent events similar to those at Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

Patrick Ky, executive director of EASA, stated: “Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring the safe, secure and sustainable operations of both drones and commercial activities.”

The regulation will come into force in the next 20 days, and will be applicable only in one year, to give member states and operators time to prepare and implement it. In June 2020, operators of drones will need to register in the member state where they have their residence or their main place of business. This all sounds perfect and must be welcome news for airlines whose pilots have had countless near misses when on approach.

But, there’s always an exception: climate-change protest group Extinction Rebellion has called on supporters to shut down operations at Heathrow for 11 days this summer, starting on 18 June. How are they going to do this? Launching a swarm of drones at night to prevent the airport opening in the morning.

How do you deal with that?

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