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Police look into drone near misses at Airport

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POLICE investigations are under way after there were ‘two near misses’ involving drones and aircraft coming into land at the Airport.

Drones have been flown in close proximity to Jersey Airport

In both cases – one involving a commercial aircraft and the other a large corporate jet – the pilots reported that a drone was being flown a few hundred metres from the aircraft as it approached the runway. Ports of Jersey said they have reported 20 different types of drone incident to the police in the past three years.

Today, a licensed pilot has called for the introduction of safety tests for all new drone users and Ports have urged Islanders to stick to strict safety laws which prevent flying a drone within two nautical miles of the Airport.

Those breaching the exclusion zones could be fined up to £2,000 or banned from flying drones. Anybody can buy a drone and there is no requirement to pass a test to operate the device.

Drone photographer Marc Le Cornu, who runs aerial photography company Bam Perspectives and is a fully-qualified drone pilot, said that forcing people to register their drones would be a positive step towards raising awareness about the laws.

Mr Le Cornu said: ‘There is a strict layer of regulation that everyone should be following. If everyone sticks to the rules then the skies should be safe.

‘A registration process would be a good thing. If when someone buys a drone they have to sign an acknowledgement of the law and do a short safety test then that should create more understanding about the laws.’

He added that the laws were ‘difficult to police’ and that the drone community did its best to try to make people aware of how and where drones could be used safely.

Airport director Stephen Driscoll said: ‘It is an offence to fly a drone within two nautical miles of the Airport or higher than 400 feet without prior permission from Jersey’s Air Traffic Control.

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‘Both of these near misses have been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority, the director of civil aviation and the police, who are investigating. While it is not known if the intrusion was deliberate, drone users should be aware of the potential catastrophic impact as a result of their inappropriate actions.’

Mr Driscoll recently attended a UK workshop at which new legislation to protect flight safety was discussed as the use of drones is presenting a significant risk to aircraft globally.

Ports of Jersey said that while it welcomed the increasing use of drones in capturing high-quality pictures and videos, drone users must be aware of the potential risks of flying near airports.

Meanwhile, the States police has also raised concerns about the number of drones flying over congested areas of St Helier.

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Chief Inspector Mark Coxhall said: ‘The benefits attached to using drone technology are clear and at times can provide valuable assistance to the work of blue-light services.

‘Equally though, the clear risks associated with operating drones outside of the law and guidance offered by our partners, Ports of Jersey, can be a serious matter. Anything that could compromise the safety of the public will always attract our attention and working closely with partners we hope to avoid such eventualities.’

Ports of Jersey have published a set of guidelines for drone users which can be found at jerseyairport.com.

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