25 APRIL 2016


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Article from BTNews 25 APRIL 2016

COMMENT: Stop the lasers, stop the drones

There is a world of difference between someone deliberately aiming a high-powered laser at an aircraft cockpit and a drone enthusiast unknowingly directing his machine into the path of an incoming passenger jet. Nevertheless, more vigorous action needs to be seen to be taken in both areas, and quickly.

Even if last week’s incident over Richmond Park did not involve a drone after all, with reports since suggesting it may have been merely a paper bag, it doesn’t take much imagination to construct a much worse scenario, despite aviation minister Robert Goodwill urging people not to overreact. As with Peter and the Wolf, overreaction is a very moveable feast. What if it was a drone? What if it had been armed?

Given the incident took place over a park, and assuming it did involve a drone, there are grounds for believing it was an innocent mistake on the part of the operator (if there was one) or, at worst, a prank, albeit an extremely dangerous one. 

Goodwill was answering questions before a House of Lords committee this week when he dismissed calls for tighter rules on drone use to protect against terror threats despite reports that the drone hit the BA aircraft at 1,700ft. He said it would be much easier for terrorists to attack airports on the ground than orchestrate an attack from a drone aircraft; current rules governing drone use were strong enough, he added.

This is not enough to stifle debate, nor should it. Even if it turns out not to have been a drone, you can bet thanks to the coverage, some of which verged on the hysterical, that someone somewhere is now considering the possibilities. It’s as inevitable as 9/11 turned out to be. As with the laser problem, we don’t just need to be told something is being done; we need to see something being done.

And no amount of obfuscation about not being able to discuss security matters in public is going to change that. 

See BA jet in 'drone strike' in this issue



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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Hugh W. Cowin, Hatfield, England

Its not just size that counts its spacial awarenesss skill too. If an A320 was to collide with a Predator-sized UAV that could be catastrophic, if hit by a £99 or less toy, it would have needed a fairly skilled pilot to have placed it there in the first instance and, even then, may well do little harm.