back to article Drone fliers are either 'clueless, careless or criminal' says air traffic gros fromage

British drone fliers are either “clueless, careless or criminal”, according to none other than National Air Traffic Service's (NATS) head of unmanned traffic management. Andy Sage made the bold statement to Parliament yesterday while giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee of MPs. He was supposed to have been …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's ask the BOFH...

    To be fair, the BOFH would classify all users as clueless, careless or criminal.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Let's ask the BOFH...

      May as well ask JK Rowling ... She writes fiction for children and young adults too.

    2. IceC0ld Silver badge

      Re: Let's ask the BOFH...

      I thought BoFH classified [L]users as - Living or Left , and those who left can be sub-divided into liing and dead I suppose, although the PFY may get excited at the thought of sub-dividing anyonee:o)

    3. stiine Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Let's ask the BOFH...

      I don't think you give The BOFH enough credit.

    4. swm Bronze badge

      Re: Let's ask the BOFH...

      I thought the BOFH would partner with the criminal group (until the division of the spoils).

  2. jake Silver badge

    Well, as they say ...

    ... fools rush in.

    When the bar to anything is lowered so any idiot can join in, idiots tend to flock to that bar. Keep it up, idiots. You're going to get yet another perfectly good and useful hobby/skill outlawed.

    1. IDoNotThinkSo

      Re: Well, as they say ...

      Why would the idiots care? Legislation isn't going to stop them.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Well, as they say ...

        >Why would the idiots care? Legislation isn't going to stop them.

        ditto for the clueless and criminal.

  3. werdsmith Silver badge

    1 out of 3

    Criminal maybe, but it seems drone pilots knew exactly what they were doing when they deliberately closed Gatwick for days.

    And as they have managed to evade arrest and still not identified they weren’t careless either.

    So 2 out of 3 of those adjectives applies to the authorities.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: 1 out of 3

      it seems drone pilots knew exactly what they were doing when they deliberately closed Gatwick for days.

      That's if you subscribe to the view that there were actually any drones involved in the Gatwick closure.

      Some might be more inclined to think that it was complete ineptitude on the part of the authorities...

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: 1 out of 3

        One does not discount the other.

        I'm inclined to believe:

        a. There was a drone, and

        b. The authorities are inept.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: 1 out of 3

          b. The authorities are inept."

          I think it's more likely that the "authorities" don't have the tools or training.

    2. king_kong

      Re: 1 out of 3

      you're not seriously saying all drone pilots are criminals due to what happened at Gatwick are you? jeez

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: 1 out of 3

        No, Don’t be daft.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: 1 out of 3

      Ol' Bill from Ockham, Surrey says "they" were probably a figment of mass hysteria, so it's no wonder they are as yet unidentified and haven't been arrested.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1 out of 3

        Oh sure, they'll close an airport just for the lolz.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: 1 out of 3

          You might call mass hysteria "lolz", but I certainly woudn't.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 1 out of 3

            Ah, comprehensive reading..

            I inferred that there must have been credible enough observations to shut down the airport, and that includes a continuation of those observations or they would have opened it sooner.

            It's the very duration that denies this event being merely based on some mass hysteria, it just doesn't stack up.

    4. Annihilator
      Holmes

      Re: 1 out of 3

      "1 out of 3"

      Probably why he used the "or" operator... ;)

    5. cantankerous swineherd

      Re: 1 out of 3

      the police managed to evade arrest it's true.

  4. steelpillow Silver badge
    Trollface

    Classifying who?

    Give the poor guy a break. He mistook the classification of bureaucrats for that of drone fliers.

    It's an easy mistake for any bureaucrat to make.

  5. LeahroyNake Silver badge

    How high?

    Serious question, how high do you have to go to be subject to a / any law regarding airspace in the UK ?

    If I had a really big warehouse where I could let my kids fly their drones up to say 100ft I'm guessing that would be OK as it has a roof.

    If I'm at the action end of an airport runway any height is most certaintyn not OK.

    My back garden about 50 miles from the nearest airport and not in a flight path. How high do I have to go to before someone sees it as a threat to aircraft?

    That makes me clueless about the law and therefore a criminal but I don't think I'm careless at all! I also doubt the local Bobby would know what do so with me either apart from asking to have a go flying.

    I'm talking about toys that weigh less than a buzzard but more that an African swallow obviously.

    1. king_kong

      Re: How high?

      right now, if the rig is <20kg then you can legally fly up to 400ft above the surface of the earth. you shouldn't be getting anywhere near an airport/aerodrome as they have controlled airspace around them (the ones you're talking about anyhow)

    2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: How high?

      Anything being flown indoors is exempt.

      Apart from that, there's a general requirement not to fly remotely controlled models or drones further away than you can see them well enough to control them accurately or above 400 feet AGL. Thats naked eye or with spectacles: using binoculars etc. for extended range is forbidden.

      You can also fly models or drones using a video camera on the aircraft that drives a headset or screen for the pilot in charge (PIC). This is known as First Person View (FPV). Flying this way requires an observer, alongside the PIC, who is observing the whole flight using unaided vision (apart from glases): his job is to watch for potential collisions etc because the field of view of a PIC using FPV is typically quite limited and is restricted to straight ahead of the aircraft: IOW it is inadequate for monitoring nearby traffic, which is why the observer is required.

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: How high?

        > 400 feet AGL

        Thats above SEA level not ground level. If you are on a hill and fly 400 feet above your head you will suddenly gain height and get in the way of official users the moment you leave the area of the hill.

    3. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Re: How high?

      I'm talking about toys that weigh less than a buzzard but more that an African swallow obviously.

      An unladen African swallow or....?

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: How high?

      Be thankful that you don't live in Germany. Drone flying is restricted to model aircraft airports and open spaces. It can only be flown in line of sight (even if it is fitted with a camera, it must be visible to the operator at all times).

      Flying over built up areas, private property, airports, government or commercial property is not allowed (commercial drone pilots can get special permission for a specified route at a specified time, for film production).

      You cannot use a camera on a drone, or its footage, if it looks onto a piece of property not owned by the operator (E.g. you fly it from your garden and the camera can see onto the street or a neighbouring property) - although that would come under built-up area anyway.

    5. Povl H. Pedersen

      Re: How high?

      I live in Denmark, and the law is there to protect the general public from danger, and the new thing is privacy.

      We have a 5km NFZ around airport, 8km around military airports - They tend to fly a bit lower with jets. We can fly up to 100m outside cities, planes can go down to 150m - so 50m separation if everybody puhes it to the limit. 2km distance to medic heliports (typical at hospitals). 150m away from buildings, parks/beaches near built-up areas, larger roads (defined as speed limit 70 km/h or more), railways, traffic accidents, nature preserves etc. 50m away from non-spectating people, ships etc.

      For indoor shows, there must be sufficient protection of spectators.

      Rules are simple, a license is £2.00. Drones must be marked with owners registration number, name and phone number. And you must have insurance.

    6. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: How high?

      The laws apply the moment you leave the ground regardless of what the flying object is. There is no minimum height.

      Inside you will be fine but outside you are interfering with the controlled airspace that has been reserved specifically for private use.

      If you are not in an area controlled by an airport then you will generally be fine as long as you follow the drone code. If you follow that they will turn a blind eye to your interference but no matter how high or low you are your aircraft must drop to the ground should any manned aircraft enter the area.

      Basically you can play on the road till the cars come.

  6. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    "either 'clueless, careless or criminal'”

    Rather some combination thereof

    1. nijam

      Re: "either 'clueless, careless or criminal'”

      > "either 'clueless, careless or criminal'”

      Same as the requirement for a bureaucrat addressing a parliamentary committee, as it happens.

  7. Mater Mills

    Meme Copyright 2018

    Darrell Mills #ApprovedDronePilots ;)

  8. defiler Silver badge

    Cyclists

    Just like cyclists, the majority of drive pilots are doing their own thing and minding their own business, but the ones that appear on the radar, so to speak, are the ice doing something wrong.

    In all honesty, you could put any group in there. Gun owners, motorcyclists, dog owners, maybe even taxmen.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Cyclists

      Just about anybody, actually. There is even a name for them: 1%er.

      1. Jez Burns

        Re: Cyclists

        I've heard it said that up to one in twenty five people is a sociopath - a figure that seems to tally nicely with driving behaviour on the roads if you're aware of the number. Ever had someone on the opposite side of the road who sticks their full beams back on at the last minute knowing there's no consequence for them? Likely you've just passed one of those twenty five. So the reality could be more like 4%er.. It's always chilled me if this is the case that statistically, some of these people - with no ability to feel remorse or a conscience - would be in charge of safeguarding sensitive personal data, safety issues in industry, law enforcement, teaching, government bureaucracy.. and of course flying drones for a hobby. If they're on the psychopathic end, they're also more attracted to risk-taking. Sadly society will always have to make sacrifices to make allowances for the behaviour of these kinds of people.

    2. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Cyclists

      I'm going to take this moment to apologise for my spelling when I'm on my phone. Honestly, I'm better when I'm drunk at a normal keyboard than relying on my phone.

      Dictated, but not read.

      Defiler.

  9. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

    Sage is right!

    The drone community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check. So they all deserve to be called that. I am so in for a forced registration. Next would be a visit o every home in a 5 km area around the airport to check and make them sign, legally binding, that they either don't have a drone or proof of registration. Treat them like guns. Er, but not like the US treats guns please, like UK/Europe treats guns...

    Now vote me down.

    1. Kernel Silver badge

      Re: Sage is right!

      "Next would be a visit o every home in a 5 km area around the airport to check and make them sign, legally binding, that they either don't have a drone or proof of registration."

      Yeah - because nobody in the UK owns a car is or otherwise capable of traveling more than 5km.

      Mind you, it might work - my sister tells me that in the three generations it took for my grandparents to emigrate from the north of England to New Zealand and for her to end up living in Preston, some of her friends have moved as far as the next street from where their grandparents lived.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sage is right!

      "Treat them like guns. Er, but not like the US treats guns please, like UK/Europe treats guns..."

      Right...

      The rational, reasonable country where the national Olympic pistol team has to go to another country to practice because they and their single shot .32 pistols are too dangerous to be allowed in the UK.

      Good thing the UK citizens and politicians are not given to extreme policies.

    3. stiine Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Sage is right!

      Done, you've been downvoted.

      Here, have an addtional thumbs down.

    4. SonofRojBlake

      Re: Sage is right!

      "Next would be a visit o every home in a 5 km area around the airport to check and make them sign, legally binding, that they either don't have a drone or proof of registration."

      I've never signed anything saying I don't own a gun. I've never signed anything saying I don't own nerve agent or the means and knowledge to manufacture it. I've never signed anything to say I don't possess any drugs or the means to grow/synthesise any. Nor have I been required to, because last I checked we're not THAT kind of police state.

      Visit my home by all means. Pop a note through the door if you'd like. But if you expect me to certify to you that I *don't* own something I could build or buy legally, you can fuck right off, ALL the way off, fuck off so far that you get back here, and when you do, you can fuck off again.

    5. Roland6 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Sage is right!

      >The drone community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check. ...

      Like the attempt at satire, needed a little more polish.

      I really liked the idea "and make them sign, legally binding, that they either don't have a drone or proof of registration."; self-certification is so 'not' open to abuse because we (including the clueless, careless and criminal) are so honest...

      Aside: More seriously, Sage is right when you factor in his NATS remit; To fly a drone around an operational airport like Gatwick you must be clueless, careless or criminal. However, I suspect the odds are high that the authorities are already capable of apprehending the careless or clueless.

    6. batfink Bronze badge

      Re: Sage is right!

      Ok I've taken your advice and voted you down.

      "the drone community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check" - what are you on about? Do you seriously think that every drone owner knows every other drone owner, and has some kind of influence over them?

      You could just as well say:

      " the car-owning community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check"

      or

      "the knife-owning community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check"

      Therefore all car owners and anyone who has a knife in their kitchen should be subject to your "visits".

      Yes stupid/criminal drone users should be persecuted. However, I suggest we gather some actual evidence that this is a problem (cf the Gatwick alleged incident) before getting too excited.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sage is right!

        > " the car-owning community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check"

        They get checked every year for having a roadworthy car and checked every few mins when driving past ANPR cameras for insurance and tax.

        > "the knife-owning community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check"

        We started checking them by stop and search recently. Checking homes may be a bit much due to the numbers but we can certainly check the manufacturers and make sure only the prescribed types of knife are generally available.

        > Therefore all car owners and anyone who has a knife in their kitchen should be subject to your "visits".

        Like I said, car owners already are. Technically they are expected to visit the officials themselves, if they dont the officials visit them with a crusher.

    7. Anne-Lise Pasch

      Re: Sage is right!

      "The <x> community isn't able to keep their clueless, careless or criminal members in check. So they all deserve to be called that."

      Where <x> =

      Replace <x> with a race, and you'd be a racist.

      This is why your logic fails.

    8. Haku

      Re: Sage is right!

      Your argument is absurd stupid nonsense, just because one person enjoys a hobby in a safe manner and another person is reckless, it doesn't automatically mean the good person knows who the bad person is or could stop them even if they did know them.

      It's the same situation with drone registration - at the end of the day the police will only have a list of good owners and it won't help them find the bad owners because they just won't register. If an incident happens, how tempting will it be for the overstretched, underfunded police to see that list as an instant suspects list? Just look at what happened to the Gatwick couple, names smeared across the news and dragged into the police station because some busybody must've told the police that man owns a drone, except he didn't anymore...

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Sage is right!

        "at the end of the day the police will only have a list of good owners and it won't help them find the bad owners because they just won't register."

        Yes, but. If an idiot is out doing what they're best at, stupid things, and they get nicked, the unregistered drone is another offense and possibly could be confiscated (or ransomed).

        £16.75 is a bit rich. Registration shouldn't be more than a fiver.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sage is right!

        > just because one person enjoys a hobby in a safe manner

        Safe is subjective. Its subject to what can and will go wrong, thus it is not safe.

    9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Sage is right!

      "The drone community"

      Which one?

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sage is right!

      Drones aimed at anyone not using it as part of a job should be banned unless they are tethered (say a 20m long line delivering power so if it get s cut the drone dies) or flown exclusively indoors or within outdoor netted areas.

      Any drones in toy shops/amazon that are not professional ones costing several thousand should be intercepted at the ports and destroyed as contraband. Drones that can only fly indoors successfully would be ok, they should use IR controls, that way they will be almost next to useless outdoors.

      I want to see raids on houses!

      All outdoor drones should communicate to the tower at airports and operators should use 2 way radio like pilots to request clearance etc from the tower. Flight plans must be submitted for approval and must be accurate plans of the actual route, deviation of the route should be logged by the drone and reported. Of course the wind may be responsible so if nothing bad happened it will simply be a quick investigation/interview etc. The tower must have the ability to signal the drone to order it to return to home point and shutdown.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    British drone fliers

    Does that include those tasked with flying the RAF Watchkeeper Drone or are those still flown by the (French) Manufacturer?

    1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Re: British drone fliers

      From what I understand, "flying" tends to be more of a happy coincidence than a specific intention with Watchkeepers

      1. Chrissy

        Re: British drone fliers

        I'm expecting Watchkeepers to be re-categorised as submarines, and their personnel moved to the Navy.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forgot the fourth C

    Commercial... the only one he's likely to demonstrate any kindness towards.

  12. SkippyBing Silver badge

    'The drone community feels very much under attack by the government and those advising the government.'

    So much like the rest of the population then?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: "The drone community"

      I see we are now 'communities' rather than users etc. I assume that purchase of breakfast cereals makes me a member of the crunchy nut cornflake community...

      1. sandman

        Re: "The drone community"

        Everybody is lumped in a bloody community now. You are also part of the Reg Commentard Community (Please note, this is not a sub-community of the Crunchy Nut Cornflake Community).

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "The drone community"

        If you feel at home describing yourself as a nutty flake, go right ahead.

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: "The drone community"

          Crunchy Nut Cornflakes - Lots of Sugar - Government does not approve

  13. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Said to get a reaction

    That's how it looks to me, and it certainly succeeded in that!

    Whether it was the reaction he wanted is another matter of course.

  14. Louis Schreurs

    “clueless, careless or criminal”,

    My view since the first one took off.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. drones

    The folks flying previously legal model fixed-wing aircraft have been up in arms about this, and rightfully so.

    I'd be interested to see if the sale and import of drone accessories such as motors and control gear will also get blocked.

    Also how would the law apply to "indoor" ie those cheap infrared toys intended for 5 minute flight time?

  16. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Registration £16.50

    For a £3 toy?

    A quick google revealed prices starting at about £3 (one at £2.95 and one at £3.14 among five ads at the top of the results page).

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Registration £16.50

      Those are under the 250g weight limit and are unlikely to be of much use outdoors except on an almost perfectly calm day.

  17. Marty McFly
    Mushroom

    The 10% rule

    Let's face it. Take any particular group of people. It doesn't matter. 10% of them will be jerks. Applying that rule....

    Yes, the drone operators around Gatwick were in the 10% category. No doubt about it.

    And it seems the 10% within the National Air Traffic Service have also been identified.

  18. macjules Silver badge

    “clueless, careless or criminal”

    That is no way to refer to our fine RAF drone operators.

  19. H in The Hague

    Such wit

    "We regard drone users in, kind of, three categories: 'clueless, careless and criminal'.”

    The gentleman studied at Oxford (though, mercifully, engineering, not PPE). This whole thing reminds me of a recent article by Simon Kuper in the FT where he mentions how, during debates at the Oxford Union, you won debates "... not by boring the audience with detail, but with jokes and ad hominem jibes." That may be mildly entertaining at uni but I would prefer civil servants and their political masters, all of whom we pay for, to focus more on substance and less on puerile excercises in wit.

    But perhaps I'm just a grumpy old git, one of those reviled experts, even a despicable technocrat.

    Source for this quote:

    https://www.ft.com/content/85fc694c-9222-11e9-b7ea-60e35ef678d2

    If that's behind a paywall then search on "How Oxford university shaped Brexit"

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Such wit

      you won debates "... not by boring the audience with detail, but with jokes and ad hominem jibes."

      That's how debates are meant to work. While they can be won by a razor-sharp forensic disassembly of the opponent's position, generally they are won by rhetorical tricks and a willingness to misrepresent and mischaracterise the other person.

    2. TimMaher Bronze badge
      Trollface

      Re: Such wit

      And yet, @H, you may notice, in the quote, that he did not use an Oxford comma where one would be appropriate.

      I think we should told.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Such wit

      "That may be mildly entertaining at uni but I would prefer civil servants and their political masters, all of whom we pay for, to focus more on substance and less on puerile excercises in wit."

      Many of them went to Oxford too, so why would they expect anything different? You just have to watch PMQ to see the Oxford Debating Society techniques in action.

  20. Timarzi

    Shhh!

    I would be more in favour of easy access to drones if they were considerably quieter.

  21. MAF

    'clueless, careless or criminal'

    Pretty much the classification for most MPs these days too...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This will be an unpopular view, but...

    ...was he wrong?

    I have a toy drone - nothing special, picked up from one of those manchild shops around the place.

    I *don't* know the maximum height or exclusion zones for drones, making me clueless.

    I still fly the thing on the assumption that as a toy variety drone it's not got the range to get into trouble, which probably makes me careless.

    So far I haven't used it to nefarious ends, but clearly that happens.

    Registered drone pilots represent a tiny minority of drones out there, with the rest being owned by muppets like me - so whilst he probably should have given a nod to the professionals, ultimately, was he wrong?

  23. DropBear Silver badge
    Mushroom

    The only drone fliers you ever hear about - who end up in the news - are the either clueless, careless or criminal ones, you fucking nitwit!

  24. MachDiamond Silver badge

    It's the 10% that get noticed

    You don't hear about operators when nothing happens unless some paranoid whatsit climbs all over them thinking their spying on them. Very few videos on YouTube that get many views are "here's me taking photos of a flat for let and nothing happened". What you will see on the news and the recommended videos is where some yahoo flies their drone and lands on a stage right in front of a senior politician.

    I fly commercially and have my license and insurance. I would like to see more enforcement of the regs, especially against those that are doing dangerous things. I'm much better off if there is a bar set for getting into the business and people such as estate agents are diligent about only hiring licensed operators to avoid being fined themselves. I'm fine with hobbyists not needing a license, but they should be required to fly in areas with fewer people, aircraft, etc.

    I used to do aerial photos from a plane or helicopter, but that's really really expensive. I also had to use a long telephoto lens as we couldn't fly right over the top of a building. With a drone, I can pop up very quickly, get my photos and be packed up in less time then it takes to preflight a manned aircraft. They are a great tool but can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's the 10% that get noticed

      > With a drone, I can pop up very quickly, get my photos and be packed up in less time then it takes to preflight a manned aircraft.

      Even professional drones should be tethered.

  25. the Kris
    Angel

    Much better fit:

    Politicians are either 'clueless, careless or criminal'.

  26. quattroprorocked

    Drone Community?

    Am I the only one who thinks "Bertie Wooster" every time I read it?

  27. Funky Buddah

    Where this term came from

    The clueless, careless or criminal comes from an FAA spokesperson from 7th March 2018 and describes irresponsible drone users in the US.

    https://twitter.com/faanews/status/971571929416126465?lang=en

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