back to article Drone idiots are still endangering real aircraft and breaking the rules

Drones are still presenting a haphazard hazard to British pilots, with four near-miss reports being made during a five-day period in June alone. Two near-misses occurred on 23 June, with the aircraft involved being a Boeing 747 and a light aircraft. In the case of the 747, its pilot reported seeing “a drone” while flying at …

  1. PhilipN Silver badge

    Heavy regulation

    Lock ' em up and throw away the key.

    Not because serious hobbyists are doing this but because the way prices and the technology is going every kid is going to have a powerful drone in his Christmas stocking before long. Given the typical schoolboy mentality things will then quickly get out of hand.

    1. Rob Crawford

      Re: Heavy regulation

      Firstly you are presuming this ever actually happened.

      Frankly the technology simply can't do what is claimed in this 'article' (by article I'm wondering if a pair of tongs, bleach and a boil wash would be appropriate for the offending item)

      At best it would point to military kit if the claims are to be believed. In times past when such claims where made pilots where breathalyzed, maybe they should start that procedure again

      Secondly you are presuming you have a clue regarding what you are commenting upon

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Passing fad.

        Personal use will soon just get boring.

        Yes, I'd like to see heavy fines, possibly some sort of licencing, but well before that, they'll just be a passing fad.

        Remember mini motorbikes? Get one free with a mobile phone etc?

      2. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Heavy regulation

        This is a writeup of four separate airprox reports filed to, and later investigated and published by, the UK Airprox Board. I've even put that in the subhead (that's the big text just underneath the really big text at the top of the page, as you seem to have difficulty locating simple things like this).

        You can use a search engine to look up the airprox reports - reference numbers 2016114, 2016119, 2016123, 2016128.

        I understand from the tone of your comment that you're probably one of the idiots doing his level best to ruin everybody else's hobby for the sake of a thrill-seeking YouTube video while putting on your holier-than-thou act on the internet, but if you're not intelligent enough to read the words on a screen in front of you then you really shouldn't be playing with remote-control toys either.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Heavy regulation

          You can use a search engine to look up the airprox reports - reference numbers 2016114, 2016119, 2016123, 2016128.

          The report that was filed of a drone hitting an airliner was investigated and decided it was probably a plastic bag. It was reported right here on The Register. It is OK and healthy for people to be skeptical about what we are told, and very unhealthy to accept everything that has an official stamp on it as 100% correct.

        2. Rob Crawford

          Re: Heavy regulation

          If you are referring to me then I suggest you read what was actually written as opposed to making accusations.

          There are issues, I have personally reported flyers to the cops on 3 occasions for flying in and around airports (and a couple of times in city centres) and will continue to do so, so watch where you point fingers.

          However the altitudes (and speeds) quoted simply smell of piss for consumer (and even commercial) machines.I have no doubt that several such sightings in the US where very large turbine powered fixed wing machines (which everybody insists upon calling models, so that's OK)

          I have watched the PSNI UAS flying within the Belfast City Airport approach path so maybe the police force mentioned where dicking about at the time with some monster machine they own.

          As such sightings have been going on for donkeys years what where they called before multirotors became available?

          There are issues but they aren't DJI Phantoms 2 miles up, they're in and around entirely inappropriate locations and probably much more dangerous.

          Perhaps the Daily Mail have a job you may wish to apply for?

      3. Voland's right hand Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Heavy regulation

        Firstly you are presuming this ever actually happened.

        I tend to agree. At the altitudes quoted in the article a drone would be way out of its WiFi command range. This means a drone using dedicated high power radio remote, drone with pre-progrrammable navigation and/or drone with mobile data control channel.

        It is not something Joe, Harry and Sally can get in their Christmas stocking anytime soon.

        There is something seriously fishy going on here.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Heavy regulation

          NOT necessarily!

          I suggest browsing back to other articles on El Reg regarding drones and airprox incidents.

          Drones are more powerful than people realise... and just because you think it's out of WiFi range does not mean that people aren't going to try (been there, done that, argued with the drone operator who told me to kindly FOAD). Drone rules set by CAA specify that you should always be able to see your drone... good luck telling anyone else that.


        2. Haku

          Re: Heavy regulation

          "At the altitudes quoted in the article a drone would be way out of its WiFi command range. This means a drone using dedicated high power radio remote, drone with pre-progrrammable navigation and/or drone with mobile data control channel."

          It's actually quite easy to boost the 2.4ghz signal coming from a hobby grade transmitter to turn its range from meters into miles.

          Couple that a 5.8ghz AV transmitter which is way beyond the legal UK limit of 25mW and you've got yourself a realtime view from a very long way away.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Heavy regulation

            If these things are using standard WiFi frequencies and protocols, does that mean that the owner's MAC address can be sniffed, the vendor guessed, and the vendor issued with suitable paperwork by their local plod to request assistance in determining who the drone in question was sold to?

            Obviously there are ways to avoid such detection, but I imagine most rogue drones are piloted by idiots rather than terrorists, so it would probably work.

            1. Haku

              Re: Heavy regulation

              @Ken Hagan

              Very few multirotors use actual wifi, they're usually small toys such as the Cheerson CX-10W that use your phone/tablet to control it and view a realtime picture from the onboard camera.

              Most radio control systems use 2.4ghz and the different manufacturers have developted their own protocols. So for example a Taranis RC transmitter uses plug-in radio modules so you can control different brands of receivers just by swapping out the transmitter module.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Heavy regulation

              "request assistance in determining who the drone in question was sold to?"

              That's assuming the seller took or kept details of the buyer, that it's not been sold on. There is no compulsory registration scheme and no one ever fills out and returns manufactures guarantee cards because they mean nothing, the contract is with the seller.

              1. Haku

                Re: Heavy regulation

                Furthermore, once you've got the skills to build your own drone (airplane / helicopter / multirotor), there's nothing stopping you from buying the parts to build one from a vast array of sources.

                For example you can build a drone using parts exclusively bought direct from China and will often arrive in untracked packages marked "toy parts" or "electronic parts" etc. that make it near impossible to keep track of who bought what.

                Which is probably why the EASA are trying to push through rules that limit people to building drones that weigh a maximum of 250g, a weight that severely limits the craft's capability in terms of distance and flight time.

                Not to mention that currently (as far as I'm aware, though I keep seeing contradicting rules) we're allowed to fly a maximum of 500 meters away and 122 meters (400 feet) high in the UK, but the EASA want to limit that to 100 meters away and 50 meters high. If you convert those numbers into cubic meters of flight area, that equates to a reduction of over 98%! Making it blatently obvious they want to stop drone usage by the general public.

            3. Rob Crawford

              Re: Heavy regulation

              Wi-Fi isn't used (that's info coming from people who don't know what they're talking about, or who are talking about toys)

              Output is limited to 100mW and in the case of the very common FrSky Taranis the absolute max range is about .9 of a mile on a standard setup and perhaps 2.7KM with the long range TX.

              Further ranges can be gained by shifting down to 433MHz and going mad with antenna trackers.

              I've never sent a machine out past 150 metres as a 450mm machine is difficult to see even with nice LEDs installed.

              Personally I don't like FPV flying, but even then with a totally illegal 600mW 5.8GHz transmitter the range isn't massive. Those who want long range go down to 1.2 GHz (those require physically large antennas)

              On the whole the people who are causing issues are idiots and who buy a ready made machine and fly somewhere stupid, usually through ignorance.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Some numbers...

        From the Phantom 4 specs:

        Max Altitude: 6000m

        Max Endurance: ~28 Minutes

        Max Ascent speed: 6 m/s

        Max Descent speed: 4 m/s

        Which gives:

        Time to ascend to 6000m = 6000 / 6 = 1000 seconds = 16.6 minutes

        Time to descend from 6000m = 6000 / 4 = 1500 seconds = 25 minutes

        So it would seem that if you try to fly to max alt at the max ascent rate you'll be out of power before you get back down again. However, if you ascend at a lower rate then it'll take proportionally longer to do so and, in addition, I doubt that the max endurance figure is achievable if you're ascending at the max possible rate.

        For the 747 incident at 4000ft (1219m) we get an ascent time of 203 seconds = 3.3 minutes

        For the A340 incident at 9000ft (2743m) we get an ascent time of 257 seconds = 7.6 minutes

        So those two reports do seem plausible.

        1. mallettron

          Re: Some numbers...

          Phantom 4 limited to 500m above takeoff position, cant be changed so it cant be one of them

          Also geofenced so should not be able to fly near airports without permission

          There are other quads that look like the Phantom 4 that may not have these restrictions

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Some numbers...

            On a typical glidepath approach of ~3.5 degrees an aircraft will pass through 500m (1640 ft) about 8.1 km, or about 5 miles, away from the touch-down point. Dunno what the geofenced distance is.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward



              Category A airports (eg Gatwick) the boundary starts at 5 miles (8100 meters) from the airport but height is not limited until you come within 4.9 miles (8000 meters). At this point the Phantom will not fly higher than 393 feet (120 meters). As it gets closer, the ceiling reduces until it reaches 1.5 miles (2400 meters) and a maximum altitude limit of 34 feet (10.5 meters). Any distance inside of 1.5 miles and the Phantom will not start or fly, assuming it has a GPS signal.

              Category B airports (eg Stanstead) no-fly zones are a bit smaller at 2000 meters and 1000 meters, respectively.

          2. Vic

            Re: Some numbers...

            cant be changed so it cant be one of them

            It *can* be changed - the AAIB have at least one with no such restrictions.

            This is, naturally, not a trivial modification to make; the manufacturer can do it, but I've no idea if anyone else can.


        2. Peter Galbavy

          Re: Some numbers...

          ... except the P4 (which I have) is limited to 500m above point of take-off in firmware - the 6,000m limit in the specs quoted is a little different and is actually the height above sea level that it has the capability to fly from *at all* based on air density. The specs page on the manufacturer's site reads:

          Max Service Ceiling Above Sea Level 19685 feet (6000 m)

          The Air Navigation Order (2016) came into force in August and supersedes all the previous ANOs and derogations - but sadly most of the old rules are still freely shared on web sites, both amateur and professional - including the CAA's own "Drone Code".

          Stupid people will always be stupid. Flying an aircraft, a drone / UAV is, should be done with safety as the primary concern - I actually welcome some level of mandatory training or licensing for non-toy devices - and the A3 grade of the proposed EU rules require this.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Some numbers...

          Correction: typo in the A340 incident ascent time in seconds - should read 457 seconds and not 257 seconds.

        4. Jeffrey Nonken

          Re: Some numbers...

          ...Assuming you start at sea level.

        5. kyndair

          Re: Some numbers...

          It's only plausible if the drone can also match the speed of the plane long enough to move from below to above and be visible at the same time which given the size of even the biggest consumer units. One of the planes was doing 200 knots which for grounds people is about 103 m/s.

          If we take the 6 m/s ascent speed as realistic for the drone to climb 80 m while moving in front of the plane, that's 13 s of flat out climbing (and that ignores that it was also supposed to have moved left to right as viewed from the plane which would significantly slow the ascent) all of which means the pilot had to have spotted the drone at least 1.3km (more likely 2+km). As even the best pilots only the eyeball mk1 the resolution means that something like the phantom 4 would only be a single dot at 1km it makes it unlikely that the report is accurate.

        6. mallettron

          Re: Some numbers...

          Try again, maximum flyable height is 500m above takeoff point, the maximum altitude that the p4 can take off from is 5950m asl, so yes the p4 can fly to 6000m ;-)

          I only know the p4, other variants might have different settings

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: Heavy regulation

      Don't sweat the school children, they're just stupid. I get the impression it isn't going to be long before the flabellum flails the feces.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prove it

    I'm sick or hearing of these drones at X thousand feet or ones that can suddenly overtake a light arcraft and get above it.

    Cars have cameras in many so many contries now so fit cameras to aircraft and lets pick apart the video.

    It's bollocks until proven otherwise, except the Essex thing, that sounds about right for Essex.

    1. Stevie

      Re: Prove it

      And yet even cars get nerfed in ways the cameras miss because the threat window is 360 degrees and the camera coverage forward and aft. Now imagine the problem magnified by a globular threat window. How much space and weight are you willing to dedicate to largely useless cameras rather than useful payload?

      License the drones. Make them use iff transponders that id the drone as per mac-address type credential. See, ping, prosecute the purchaser. Job done.

      1. Ben Norris

        Re: Prove it

        There hasn't been a single accident involving a drone. Lets licence the sensationalist reporters and foaming knee jerkers and deal with 'the problem' far more effectively.

        1. Martin

          Re: Prove it

          There hasn't been a single accident involving a drone.

          So we shouldn't do anything until an aeroplane is damaged? Are you serious?

          1. Ben Norris

            Re: Prove it

            Ok so lets ban cats too. We can't wait until a cat damages a plane!

            These drones are too light to physically do any damage and most of the supposed sightings are at physically impossible altitudes and speeds. They pose no threat to air traffic. People are even legally allowed to fly them in most of the places you are griping about.

            This is a case of any flash of a bird or carrier bag becomes a drone instead of a ufo. And a sensationalist media whipping a paranoid public into a frenzy to sell advertising.

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Prove it

              Except that they probably aren't. Several kilograms of heavy dense objects will certainly do a LOT of damage. I've seen what a squishy and relatively small bird does to the nose of a Boeing 757 and to the wing of a glider (the glider doesn't even move that fast, yet a bird made it up to the wingspar).

              And plenty of footage from drone-idiots themselves would show that some drones can and do make it to pretty large altitudes. Might some of the incident reports be false? Yes. Should we take the potential danger VERY VERY seriously? ABSO-F*^KING-LUTELY!

            2. nkuk

              Re: Prove it

              "These drones are too light to physically do any damage"

              That's not true, they contain LiPo batteries that are dangerous when punctured and some postal services wont transport them. The Galaxy Note 7 is an example of what can go wrong with a battery.

            3. Haku

              Re: Prove it

              "These drones are too light to physically do any damage and most of the supposed sightings are at physically impossible altitudes and speeds."

              The sorts of multirotors that can be built to get to air traffic heights are not all 'small' plastic shelled toys of the DJI Phantom ilk, they use carbon fiber arms, a set of 6 or 8 motors can in total weigh easily up to 2 kilos or more, not to mention the battery required for such a craft to fly for the needed time is bound to be over 700g.

              But really, the kind of people who can and do build such hexcopters/octocopters have a lot more common sense as they're vastly more aware of what damage their craft can do and are more protective of their creation than those who buy a ready-to-fly toy, charge up the battery then go flying with almost no previous experience of flying these things, and that's the sort of person the EASA want to stop but their proposals are going way way overboard.

              I would welcome some sort of licensing / registration if only they do it right, in that they allow us to build drones (planes / helicopters / multirotors) over 250g but only after getting some sort of qualification to do so that's not easy to get but is doable, because currently the EASA's proposals are whack.

            4. Hollerithevo

              Re: Prove it

              Bad logic. Not a parallel case until cats can fly.

              1. Haku

                Re: Prove it

                "Bad logic. Not a parallel case until cats can fly."


            5. d3vy

              Re: Prove it

              "These drones are too light to physically do any damage"

              Too light to do damage? I think you'll find the speed the plane is traveling at will have some impact (pun intended) in the damage done.

              Throwing the drone at a stationary plane.. no damage, plane at xxxmph hitting a hovering drone? Probably not ok.

              As as example a small stone probably weighing less than 100g put a crack straight across my windscreen once because I was going quite fast.. had I been been doing 20 I'm fairly sure it would be ok.

              Also if you fancy being on a plane while a lithium ion battery and a few kg of plastic and metal works its way through the engine feel free... I'd rather give it a miss.

            6. Stevie

              Re:Ok so lets ban cats too. We can't wait until a cat damages a plane!

              You'd have been on firmer ground using birds instead of cats, Ben.

              Of course, then you'd have to admit that something very light *can* bring down a plane if the plane is very unlucky.

              Wait. "on firmer ground" doesn't work, does it? Hang on ... how about "in denser air"?

              I agree that not all in-flight sightings can be drones. There's no question that some sightings are bogus with a capital boge. But many of them are real and it is a verifiable fact that the drone operating community contains idiots who cannot self-mediate for safe behavior. Your rage is more properly placed at their door than that of the reporter.

              As usual it will be the actions of a few idiots who ruin it for everyone. What, you thought auto insurance happened by accident?

            7. Johndoe888

              Re: Prove it

              "These drones are too light to physically do any damage"

              That's what NASA thought about foam :(

        2. Stevie

          Re: Prove it

          "There hasn't been a single accident involving a drone. Lets licence the sensationalist reporters and foaming knee jerkers and deal with 'the problem' far more effectively."

          Drone owner, Ben?

          And Youtube footage suggests your "zero accident" theory is based on tentative data, to say the least.

    2. nkuk

      Re: Prove it

      There's plenty of proof on youtube of drones ascending thousands of feet to high altitude above the clouds, they can easily be found with a search.

      I think there will be more and more regulation on these drones until they become useless paperweights, especially with morons like Casey Neistat flying them in city centres out of line of sight and losing remote control of them, and then uploading the footage to his millions of followers, who based on the comments on his youtube channel think its fine to do the same.

      1. Kernel

        Re: Prove it

        "There's plenty of proof on youtube "

        Of course, if it's on Youtube it must be true.

  3. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Bit miffed and surprised

    Bit miffed that you felt the need to locate Welshpool as being "30 miles west of Birmingham" while Grays and Lippitts Hill (both of which I've barely heard of ) are just "in Essex". Essex is a pretty big place.

    Surprised that the Welshpool report has the drone "about 50m below" and then "about 100ft above". Mixed measurements? Whatever next?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bit miffed and surprised

      50m = 164ft so the drone moved about 264ft vertically while in view, a Phantom 4 is limited to about 13.4MPH ascent so forgetting the horizontal movement would take about 13.4 seconds to do that, just how close was he and how long did he observe for? Was he at stall speed while doing that? if not how far away was the craft when he first spotted it?

      We are being fed a line and I'm sure there are some idiots who can disable the 400ft limit or build craft capable of that sort of speed at 1.5k but I doubt the story and that makes me doubt others, in this day and age we can whip up a mob on facebook alone, I dream of a time when people use some simple logic and think for themselves.

      To save my doubting soul how many of you banners have actually had any contact with "Drones"?

      The EASA regulations are the locomotives act of our day.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bit miffed and surprised

        FYI there is no 400ft limit, drones are allowed to fly higher.

        1. stu 4

          400ft limit

          yup, never understood why people have such a problem understanding this part of the ANO - you'd have thought the CAA might have take the opportunity to reword it, but it's still the same in 2016 version.

          This is the section so many people seem to quote, seemingly unable to follow the fact it applied only to drones over 7kg.

          Weirdly though it's also the paragraph that by inversion allows them to fly their <7kg drones in non class G airspace legally (e.g. most of london, etc). So they seem to be able to understand that bit ok.

          I mean - the complete laws are covered by 2 pages of ANO - it's not rocket science (or law - that's the next page :-) )

          stu (pilot AND law abiding drone flyer)

      2. Rob Crawford

        Re: Bit miffed and surprised

        In sport mode it can hit around 40 => 45 MPH though that probably isn't enough to stay in front of an aircraft and climb 150 metres at the same time.

        Once again I will make the proviso that there are stupid people out there who do stupid things, but where are the events likely to occur, close to the ground and close to locations nobody should be flying anything larger than a piece of folded A4 paper.

    2. Paul Woodhouse

      Re: Bit miffed and surprised

      meh... Essex is just down South near London somewhere.. its not as if anything interesting ever happens there anyway...

    3. Shades

      Re: Bit miffed and surprised

      Bit miffed that you felt the need to locate Welshpool as being "30 miles west of Birmingham"

      It would have been far more accurate to say Welshpool is 17 miles west of Shrewsbury, as that is probably the closest large place of reference. I trust most El Reg readers are intelligent enough to have heard of Shrewsbury?

      1. Preston Munchensonton

        Re: Bit miffed and surprised

        I trust most El Reg readers are intelligent enough to have heard of Shrewsbury?

        Maybe we're intelligent enough to have NOT heard of least I brought my coat.

  4. kyndair

    I want whatever drone that can do 200+ kts while performing acrobatics. Or just maybe it wasn't a drone but as that's what UFOs get identified as now maybe I'll have to wait a while longer.

    1. Kubla Cant

      I can see it's bad news if a drone gets sucked into an engine, but I'm slightly surprised that they pose other risks. The wash from an airliner is considerable - enough to pose a serious danger to light aircraft in its vicinity. Unless it's directly in the path I would have thought a drone would just be blown away.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        UFOs of the 21st come as Drones.

        People who have read Jacques Vallée know that UFOs take the form that matches the epoch...

      2. druck Silver badge

        Kubla Cant wrote:

        I can see it's bad news if a drone gets sucked into an engine, but I'm slightly surprised that they pose other risks. The wash from an airliner is considerable - enough to pose a serious danger to light aircraft in its vicinity. Unless it's directly in the path I would have thought a drone would just be blown away.
        Where to begin? Which bit of an aircraft do you think is ok to be hit by a solid object at several hundred miles per hour? And the wake is behind the aircraft, it doesn't stop things hitting the front.

      3. Jeffrey Nonken

        No risk then if the drone hits the windshield, an airfoil or any control surfaces. Or, say, landing gear.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP Areomodelling

    If EASA rules go through then pretty much every drone (and model aircraft) is grounded, so the problem goes away. Which is probably what they want. While the rules are graduated with respect to perceived risk, just about the only thing you will be allowed are those little palm sized quadcopters, and they specify lots of nice little unobtaniums, like, at the higher end, the need for transponders that probably weigh more than weight limit for a drone....

    Still maybe Brexit does have a silver lining.....

    1. Haku

      Re: RIP Areomodelling

      Brexit may not help the RC flying hobby as it looks like the new proposals are due to come into effect before we leave.

      Model plane fliers and clubs must be collectively spitting blood at the EASA, they've had literally decades of virtually no trouble and then suddenly they're being lumped with the multirotor crowd just because they're in the air too.

      But at the end of the day, they can bring in all the rules and regulations they want - it won't stop twats being twats and everyone is aware that the workload of the police is always high and they can't be everywhere, plus when some twat recently did go and fly their £3,500 quadcopter over a football statium the police held him in custody for 11 hours because they didn't know what to charge him with!

  6. ritey

    Pilots will do anything to get rid of drones as its putting their precious jobs at risk,

    1. Jeffrey Nonken
    2. Hollerithevo


      Because pilots are about to be remaindered? Because drones are going to put them out of a job? Because those contemptible selfish pilots are only looking after themselves and their pay packets and don't give a stuff for their passengers or their aircraft? Pilots such as, oh, to pick one name out of many, Captain Sullenberger? Or the pilot who put the 747 I was in down onto Shannon's runway even though it was shut because of torrential winds due to a passenger taken ill (= dying) , the pilot about whom one air steward said to us, while we waited, 'Only he had the skill to get us down, and he was determined to save that passenger'? That sort of shallow jerk?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fair disclosure, I fly a Phantom drone...

    Anyone flying responsibly will be nowhere near 4,000ft or 9,000ft, the CAA recommend 400Ft as a limit. The DJI software even lets you set up limits, and again most responsible fliers will have them set already, I know I do...

    I'm not trying to excuse the behavior of these idiots, I happily see them fined or imprisoned if they put people at risk, however as the people flying them have no consideration for the law as it stands, why will bringing in more laws, that are pretty much going to be impossible to enforce, help? The power to prosecute already exists under the Air Navigation Orders that are already law.

    1. Preston Munchensonton

      ...why will bringing in more laws, that are pretty much going to be impossible to enforce, help? The power to prosecute already exists under the Air Navigation Orders that are already law.

      ^ this. There's a lot of classes of offenses (which I won't mention here) that people repeatedly seek more and more regulation, as though the law will prevent those who will happily break it from doing so once there's a new red line drawn that supercedes that last one. Rulebreakers will break the rules, so enforce the laws on the books, but certainly don't replace them with new laws that still can't be effectively enforced.

  8. Rob Crawford

    4000 feet at 200 knots, I think not

    Flying around the nose of an A340 at 9000 feet yeah right, what speed and altitude do they think these things fly at exactly?

    Full out racing machines are lucky to get much over 60mph and are lucky to reach 4.5 minutes flight time

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Quite high

  9. Anonymous South African Coward

    A task for the Mythbusters then - see how high and fast a drone can go...

  10. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So when they're buzzed by UFO's, they don't want to talk about it. But buzzed by UFD's (unidenified flying drones), everyone wants in on the action.

  11. David Austin

    The Lemon is in Play

    Wokingham? I'm looking your way, Douglas Richardson...

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: The Lemon is in Play

      Yellow car drone!


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When drones are outlawed, only outlaws will have drones.

  13. Shaha Alam

    drones you say?

    they're drones alright...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: drones you say?

      powered by swamp gas

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Despite the operator's evident proximity to the police, the operator could not be traced."

    Evident proximity to a helipad base where there would be three or four cops, being the crews of the helicopters, with no police vehicles, no response facilities and no way to justify going out to have a look over what suddenly becomes a broad area in case an urgent support requirement comes in (high risk missing person, etc). Aircrew aren't cops in the standard sense, they don't even have PPE which means they can't deploy anywhere on foot.

    There's no need to insinuate incompetence which can't be backed up by solid evidence when they hand us enough concrete, black and white mistakes.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: C'mon

      There are 3 Met helos based at Lippitts. One of which is usually out on task, meaning one at readiness and one in for maintenance. The aircrew are not warranted constables but the nav and aircraft commander are. It's not beyond the realm of possibility to think they might have an interest in finding a local allegedly breaking several articles of the Air Navigation Order - criminal offences punishable by prison.

      (disclaimer: I have a low opinion of police helo crews after an unnamed ASU cowboy pretended not to hear me calling downwind and then finals in a motorglider, asking several times for the calls to be repeated while trying to sneak in underneath me – all because he wanted to land ASAP and get back to his cuppa. Seeing a helo tracking past 50' underneath you as a student pilot is not a nice experience)

      1. kyndair

        Re: C'mon

        Ah you forget, THEY are the law so whatever they do is correct and lawful, so it was obviously your fault for being in control of a motorglider and not paying due attention to the whims of a cop

      2. Gavin Chester

        Re: C'mon

        I'd have thought self interest may have played a part.

        Planes can glide to some extent, Heli's don't, and the next contact may be with the police copter....

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: C'mon

          Heli's glider perfectly well. It's just that they have the aerodynamics of a brick for most of the way down, cushioning the landing with the last drags of kinetic energy stored in the blades on the way down.

          1. Adam JC

            Re: C'mon

            Don't helo's have something called 'autorotate'? (Disclaimer: I am the most un-clued up person on helicopters!)

            1. werdsmith Silver badge


              Yes, height and airspeed can be converted into lift, just as it can with a fixed wing plane.

              People intuitively believe a helicopter will fall out of the sky without power, but if that were the case then there would be none certified to fly, no helicopters.

              A student pilot has to learn to fly a power off approach before they are allowed solo.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: Autorotation

                Although I should add that with a heli, the ability to fly a controlled approach and landing without power does depend on the alert pilot recognising and correctly responding to the engine failure in good time, particularly in lighter helicopters with low rotor inertia. Failure to respond may result in rotor RPM decaying to an unrecoverable speed, and the time available on a light helicopter if the disk is under a high load at the time of engine failure (fairly likely) may only be a couple of seconds.

                In the same circumstances in a fixed wing, there will always be lift available by pitching down to gain airspeed, as log as there is altitude to do so.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: C'mon

          Planes can glide to some extent, Heli's don't,

          Never heard of autorotation or the autogyro effect?

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: C'mon

        I assume this got reported to the relevant air safety agencies? And probably investigated? Helo pilot could very well lose his license if he keeps up doing that sort of shit.

        (On the other hand I've also seen someone be such an idiot in a close encounter with a police helo he just about got his lights punched out by the pilot of said helo. No idea how that ended, decided hanging around a bunch of somewhat agitated cops was not worth the risk of getting pulled into the fray.)

  15. Mike Shepherd

    Any real evidence?

    I can't recognise anything on a station platform when my train passes at 50mph, but pilots can see all this detail on something they pass at ten times that speed?

    1. Haku

      Re: Any real evidence?

      This is where Mythbusters would the perfect people to step in and try to answer the question: Can you really identify an object is actually drone at X hundred feet distance whilst travelling at X miles per hour?

      But sadly Mythbusters is no more :(

  16. Andy 73 Silver badge

    People are ignoring the rules! What we need is... more rules!

    Just as America is loosening drone regulation to allow genuine innovation to happen in this space, Europe is planning to tighten the rules to squeeze out all but the biggest commercial interests (*cough* Amazon *cough*).

    The idiot incidents will not be affected by more paperwork (to get to 9000ft, you don't read the 'don't fly above 400ft' instructions for a start). However, the small commercial interest and genuine hobbyist user will be magically washed away.

  17. JJKing

    Drones will cause impact damage.

    There hasn't been a single accident involving a drone

    I bet there wasn't a single accident involving an automobile until there was.

    I've seen the damage a 1.2lb bird can do to a light aircraft flying at 87 knots and it scared the shit out of me at the time.

  18. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Is the "domestic level" tech capable of this?

    The report at 9000 feet puts the operator (assuming he was on the ground!) nearly two miles from the drone. Do those things have that range?

    1. Jess--

      Re: Is the "domestic level" tech capable of this?

      If you can get the transmitter or receiver high enough you would be amazed at the distances that can be covered with tiny amounts of power

      from a height of 81,919 feet (15 1/2 miles) above melton mowbray a 1mW transmitter on 434Mhz was clearly receivable at a range of 267 miles (Brussels) without the use of directional aerials.

      for reference the transmitter was attached to a high altitude balloon and consisted of 2AAA cells, 1 arduino pro mini, 1 mini gps board and a small RF transmitter (due to an error in the code it ended up transmitting 1mW instead of the permitted and planned 10 mW)

  19. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Say it again

    The standard 'off the shelf' consumer drones usually rely on higher frequency transmitters with limited range - due to a need to send video back to the operator. Whilst you can buy custom R/C gear that travels further, if you're flying a drone bought off the shelf, your limit is usually around 2-4,000 feet (up to about a mile). Battery limitations kick in if you're trying to ascend or travel long distances. You *can* buy aerials to improve range, but you have to be pretty committed to get it all working reliably.

    If you want to annoy aircraft, you can buy the kit to do so, but you're better off making a balloon with a payload (hello, Register).

    Funnily enough, before there were drones, aircraft pilots commonly reported UFOs. In at least a few cases, I suspect they see what they expect to see.

    I can understand the 'lets ban them before someone gets hurt' argument - but have to point out that

    a) The people flying irresponsibly with custom kit will still do so

    b) It's actually pretty hard to hit something up there

    c) Planes are tested for major air strikes

    d) We don't seem to apply the same logic to autonomous cars and other technologies, or even the idea of Amazon carrying 1 kilo parcels a few hundred feet above public property and people.

    e) Drones are being used responsibly in a whole range of new areas, and the technology is changing incredibly quickly. Heavy handed regulation at this point will stifle many emerging uses.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deliberate action

    While this is currently about idiots (presumably) unintentionally putting aircraft at risk, police and regulators are hopefully already planning what to do about anybody who is intentionally trying to put an aircraft at risk.

    Since there are lunatics in the world who are always trying to find new ways to murder people in the name of their cause or deity, I had a thought experiment. How would I bring down a plane with off the shelf drones?

    Using one drone would be difficult. Aiming a single drone at a plane would have a very low likelyhood of success. However, since a lot of drones are programmable you could get a bunch of them and program them to deploy in a pattern that would be difficult for an aircraft to avoid in the take off or landing phase. You know the glideslope at an airfield so all you would need to do would be park a van near the airport, wait for your victim, press a button to deploy your drone swarm and drive away. If kinetic energy alone isn't enough to do the job, then you could probably give them all a small explosive payload.

    Please feel free to comment on and/or shoot holes in this plan.

    Before anyone starts saying "don't give the terrists ideas!", if I can come up with this, then others can as well. If you don't try to work out how the bad guys would try to do this, you can't work out a way to stop them.

    1. Andy 73 Silver badge

      Re: Deliberate action

      It's the Bond Villain Fallacy - the idea that 'baddies' spend ages thinking through some complex way to achieve their evil aims. In practice, the number of truly psychopathic smart people is incredibly small, and even they recognise that simple works best. The vast majority of criminal action is opportunistic and simple. You want that guys' phone? You hit him over the head and take it, rather than creating an incredibly realistic duplicate out of dried sausage meat and switching it with his real phone whilst he's distracted by a passing Miss World carnival float.

      As it is, getting one drone to do what you want isn't always easy, and by the time you've spent enough money to have a few of them, you'll realise there are better hobbies and easier ways to become an evil super villain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Deliberate action

        We are not talking about super villains though. This is about religious lunatics who believe it is their duty to kill anyone who disagrees with them.

        If you don't think these people are capable of planning complex operations, where were you on 11/9/2001? The planning involved there had people learning to fly months in advance, followed by 4 simultaneous hijackings.

        There was an attack on as Israeli aircraft in Kenya in 2002 where Al Qaida attackers attempted to down it with 2 Strela 2 SAMs. This led El Al to fit anti missile systems to their aircraft. Obtaining off the shelf drones is far simpler that getting your hands on a SAM and there are currently no counter measures.

  21. Wiltshire

    Breaking news:

    CAA and MoD to deliberately crash drones into aircraft.

    Drones are to be crashed into military aircraft as part of an investigation ordered by government ministers, and in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and CAA.

    The Department of Transport has earmarked £250,000 for the tests, which will be carried out by defence technology company Qinetiq at a 5,000-square-mile area of restricted airspace in Snowdonia, Wales.

    Through the "Mach Loop" I hope?

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