In the past few days at least two high-profile stories have emerged relating to drone safety. The first involves a Seattle man being jailed for a month after his drone fell out of the sky and injured two people during a pride parade in 2015. The second apparently involved a GoPro Karma crashing through the window of a New York apartment. Both incidents have brought into question the safety of consumer drones – in particular where they should and shouldn’t be flown.
It’s probably quite timely then, that two drone safety apps for pilots in the UK and Australia are beginning to take off. In the US, applications such as Hover, B4UFLY and UAV Forecast are helping pilots avoid no-fly zones and genuinely steer clear of angering the FAA – but further afield there has been less done to raise awareness of these issues. Until recently, anyway.
An official app has launched in the UK and one is on the horizon in Australia, as part of a concerted effort on behalf of aviation bodies to promote drone safety. In the UK, it’s been 10 weeks since The Civil Aviation Authority and the National Air Traffic Control Services released an app called Drone Assist, which helps recreational and commercial pilots comply with UK drone laws. The CAA has said that more than 10,000 users have already downloaded the app.
On top of increasing drone sales over the 2016 Christmas period, it seems as though every other day there are reports of near misses between aircraft and consumer drones. “It is therefore more important than ever for drone users to have the tools and information needed to operate safely, which is what Drone Assist aims to provide,” says Phil Binks, NATS drone lead. “We’re delighted that the app has been so well received and hope that its use helps to contribute to safer airspace with more responsible drone users.”
In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has partnered with aviation software company Drone Complier to produce an app that helps pilots stay safe and within the law. The ‘Can I fly there?’ app will be available on smartphone and tablet and is being designed with members of the CASA’s new sub-2kg commercial category in mind.
CASA’s group manager of aviation, Graeme Crawford, is hoping it will help to educate Australia’s drone community. “The app will encourage these drone flyers to operate responsibly and to follow our standard operating conditions each and every time they fly,” Crawford said. “We know people want to have fun with their drones. We want to help them do this safely by reducing the potential for them to fly their drone inadvertently in a way that might cause a threat to aircraft or other people.”