Tighter Drone Regulations Called For in NZ After Near Miss With Plane
After the near-miss a few days ago of Air New Zealand flight NZ92 from Haneda, Japan, with a drone estimated to be a mere five metres away from the aircraft, the airline is calling for tighter regulations to ensure no more lives are endangered.
The unmanned aerial vehicle approached the AirNZ 777-200 aircraft during its descent into Auckland on Sunday, putting the safety of 278 customers and crew at risk. At the time, pilots feared it had entered the engine.
With the rising popularity of consumer and commercial drones, so are serious drone incidents, and many see it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with swiftly.
Air New Zealand Chief Operations and Integrity Standards Officer Captain David Morgan was alarmed at the close call, saying, “NZ92 was just metres away from a serious incident on Sunday. The pilots spotted the drone at a point in the descent where it was not possible to take evasive action. It passed so close to the incoming aircraft that they were concerned it may have been ingested into the engine.”
In a press release, he made it clear that the onus is on policy makers, who must take action protect the travellers with better education, tighter regulations and stronger penalties for culpable operators.
Second Near Miss This Month
Even more alarming is that it is the second incident involved misuse of a UAV near at Auckland Airport this month. Flight operations at the facility had to be put on hold for a half hour on 6 March when a drone within the controlled airspace was reported by an Air New Zealand pilot.
President of the Airline Pilots Association Tim Robinson is alarmed at the growing number of near misses by drones, and believes it’s time New Zealand brought in registrations such as in Australia and the US.
“There’s been a growth in the sale of drones recently which is why there needs to be tighter regulation, he told NZ publication stuff. “Registration of drones over 250g is already in place in the United States and Australia. It’s easy in the United States where they have an online registration.”
An inspection of the aircraft has shown that the drone did not go into the engine, but Captain Morgan said, “It’s clear the time has now come for tougher deterrents for reckless drone use around airports to safeguard travellers, including imposing prison terms in the case of life-threating incidents.”
Under current regulations, individual drone operators who breach Civil Aviation Rules can receive a fine of up to $5000.
Captain Morgan says Air New Zealand is committed to pushing for tougher and more consistent penalties to raise awareness of the regulations around drone use and the potentially serious consequences of breaching them.
Education is Also Key
Other believe that the answer may not be that simple, and that better education is key.
“It’s a big challenge, drones have become very affordable and most people operating them don’t know what the regulations are,” director of Waikato-based aerial robotics manufacturer Aeronavics, Linda Bulk said.
However Greg Harford, a spokesperson for the Retail Association thinks the responsibility for understanding the rules lies with the consumer, as does Robinson.
“It’s a bit like expecting a car sales person to see if the person buying a car understands road rules,” Harford said.
Director Graeme Harrris of the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) agrees better education is required for the rules for flying drones.
“We will be supplementing our existing educational efforts by running a digital media campaign in the coming months to raise awareness of the rules around drone use and the potentially serious consequences of breaching them,” he said.