Drone safety highlighted after Wiltshire Air Ambulance's near miss
Friday, 26 January 2024
As the charity’s Bell 429 helicopter was lifting from the Recreation Ground at 4.20pm, the aircrew noticed a drone travelling at the same height as the aircraft (approx. 250ft), less than 20 metres to their left-hand side.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance had been attending a medical emergency in the city centre. Both the CAA and local police have been advised.
Richard Miller, Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s safety manager, commented: “We want drone users to have fun with their drones but to do so safely and legally.
“However, if a drone was to strike a helicopter it is likely to cause significant damage due to the solid metal parts it has and a solid battery.”
“In this instance, we were fortunate the aircrew were alert to the danger and thankfully everyone was unharmed."
“However, we want drone users to help us to ensure our team and lifesaving operation isn’t put at unnecessary risk.”
Whilst small drones (less than 250g) without cameras do not need to be registered, most drone users in the UK are now required by law to register themselves as a drone operator - this currently costs £10.33 per year. Failure to do so could result in a £1,000 fine.
If the drone is heavier than 250g then the individual pilot also needs to register and pass an exam.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has also published The Drone Code (available free on their website) to assist drone users to fly safely.
In addition, drone users can use the app Drone Assist to issue and review NOTAMs (notice to airmen), as well as no-fly zone notifications, ground hazards and the latest map data.
“The app is free to download and is a must-have for drone users,” added Mr Miller. “It is billed as the one-stop shop to help drone users pre-plan flights and to operate safely.”