Pilots demand 'safe drone zone' in UK skies.

Safe Drone Zone in UK skies demanded by Pilots

Pilots are demanding the UK becomes a "safe drone zone" to protect against potential risks such as remote hijacks and poorly-trained operators.

BALPA, the pilot's association, will tell the House of Lords today that tighter rules are needed to govern larger drones.

It wants them to be subject to the same safety standards as traditional aircraft, including only being flown by operators with pilot-equivalent training, as well as protection to reduce the chance of hackers seizing mid-air control.

"The technology is developing quickly and we could see remote aircraft the same size as a Boeing 737 being operated commercially in our skies within 10 years," said BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan.

"Large unmanned aircraft, when they come, should be as safe as manned aircraft and the British public should be fully consulted before companies fly large, remotely-piloted aircraft over their homes alongside passenger planes."

Drones - officially referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) - are becoming more popular for both hobby and commercial use.

Television and video production companies are increasingly using them to film high-quality birds-eye footage.

Drones can only currently be flown in the UK over private property with the land owner's permission.

Amazon has tested out drone parcel drops and the United Arab Emirates wants to use them to deliver documents such as driving licences.

The commercial market is estimated to be worth £7.5bn globally over the next decade.

But now a House of Lords committee is hearing evidence on whether laws need updating to keep up with the drone boom.

A report led by the former head of GCHQ has said the devices pose "significant safety, security and privacy concerns".

It warned they could be exploited by burglars, train robbers, poachers and the paparazzi.

The drone's potential for mischief was highlighted earlier this month when an airborne flag sparked a mass brawl between Serbia and Albania football players.

Jennifer Gibson, a legal expert on RPAS, told Sky News: "Parliament needs to step up.

"They need to make sure that outdated laws - which historically were used for things like CCTV cameras or manned aircraft - are updated to address this unmanned threat that is coming and can be used by the average person on the street, or by police forces.

"There need to be codes of conduct, we need to have discussions about what privacy means in this new world where you can fly something up to someone's window."

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