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 …

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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.

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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

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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?

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

*sigh*

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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.

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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

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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.

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Re: Some numbers...

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

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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.

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Re: Some numbers...

...Assuming you start at sea level.

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm

See http://www.dji.com/flysafe/no-fly

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.

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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.

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Vic
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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.

Vic.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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WTF?

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Re: Prove it

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

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Re: Prove it

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjiuA1HVWFc

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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.

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Re: Prove it

"There's plenty of proof on youtube "

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

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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?

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Re: Prove it

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

That's what NASA thought about foam :(

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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?

M.

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bit miffed and surprised

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

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Bronze badge

Re: Bit miffed and surprised

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

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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?

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Coat

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 Shrewsbury...at least I brought my coat.

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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.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/765/article/94/made

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)

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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.

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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.

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