Australia’s air crash investigators have warned that drones pose a serious risk to commercial aircraft.
The number of drones flying is expected to double by the end of the year.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau yesterday released a report Safety Of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) and the numbers are concerning.
Between 2012 and last year, there were about 180 incidents of drones being too close but more than 60 per cent of all reported encounters — 108 incidents — happened last year.
Statistical models forecast a 75 per cent rise in the number of near encounters this year, the safety bureau said. Most encounters happened in capital cities and almost all were above the allowed altitude for drones of 400ft (122m).
Some near misses happened at 3000m. The bureau report said “while there had been no reported collisions between RPAS and manned aircraft in Australia, and given the variables, the potential consequences of collisions are not yet fully understood”.
According to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, uncertified drones must also be in line of sight of the controller and at least 5km away from an airport boundary and in non-populated areas. Nearly all encounters breached some or all of these conditions.
The safety bureau’s chief commissioner Greg Hood said the report sought to better understand the implications for transport safety associated with the rise in the number of drones.