UK Report: Drone Proximity Incidents Double

Proximity incidents between drones and aircraft more than doubled in the UK last year, rising from 40 such encounters in 2015 to 94 in 2016, according to the latest annual report from the UK Airprox Board (UKAB). These results continue a trend of increasing drone-aircraft proximity incidents that reflect the “growing availability and popularity in the last few years” of unmanned aircraft systems, the report said.

Last year, 171 aircraft-to-aircraft encounters were reported—similar to 2015, when the number was 177.  Among last year's incidents, 147 or 86 percent involved at least one general-aviation aircraft. The 131 GA aircraft-to-aircraft proximity incidents accounted for 77 percent of the total, which was “about the normal rate (79 percent in 2015).”

However, not all proximity encounters are near collisions. The report defines each encounter by risk categories from A (serious risk of collision) to D (no collision risk). According to the report, 41 encounters—about 25 percent—were classified as having a risk factor of A.  

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Meanwhile, police in the UK might get new rules next year empowering them to “prevent the unsafe or criminal use of drones.” The proposed measures, to be published in the spring, are intended to allow drone users to continue flying safely and legally but will give officers the right to order operators to ground drones where necessary and seize drone parts to prove that they have been used to commit an offense. New measures will also make it mandatory for drone owners to register to improve accountability. Banning all drones from flying above 400 feet or near airports could also form part of the new regulations.