Drone Encounters Boost Separation Incidents

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The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says drone encounters accounted for almost the entire 58 percent increase in air proximity reports (airproxes) in the past five years. The BBC analyzed data from the CAA that says the airprox total jumped from 172 in 2013, when there were no drone complaints, to 272 in 2017, including 93 drone complaints. The drone spotting accounted for more than half of the 45 “category A” airproxes, the most serious and potentially dangerous. If the drone numbers are set aside, the separation incident rate is actually down because there was more traffic in 2017 but virtually the same number of manned aircraft involved in separation incidents.

Even though pilots and controllers seem to be at least as capable of avoiding collisions now as they were five years ago, the CAA is still hoping general aviation operators will embrace installation of low cost ADS-B transceivers. It has established an Electronic Conspicuity program and approved inexpensive devices that broadcast position reports from GA aircraft and drones. Unlike in the U.S., the CAA has not mandated ADS-B equipage and is hoping for voluntary compliance.

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