Drone collision guidance issued to pilots and air traffic control

British pilot and air traffic control bodies have worked together to create guidance in preventing drone collisions.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) and the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers (GATCO) have created the guidelines due to concerns over a lack of national guidance.
Drone sightings by commercial aircraft are on the rise, going from zero reports in 2013, steadily rising over the last few years, with 2017 seeing 92 reports in UK airspace – something likely to rise further once the Airprox analysis has been completed
The UK and many other countries do not yet have standard procedures to deal with drone sightings near aerodromes or violations of controlled airspace by drones.
Both organisations have issued the guidance to their members in an effort to give pilots and air traffic controllers steps to follow should a drone be flown in an irresponsible manner that puts other airspace uses in danger.
They advise that when a drone report is received, pilots should reduce speed to minimum clean during climb and descent, and reduce speed to 180kt during approach .
“While even small drones have been observed above 10,000 feet, pilots are more likely to encounter a drone at lower levels, during departure and approach phases. In principle, it should not be a problem to request to reduce speed to 180kt when on a STAR, initial or intermediate approach. If the aircraft is already at 180kt or less, continue with assigned speeds.”
They recommend that the speed reduction should be requested first so ATC can assess the traffic situation and accommodate the request safely. Further speed reductions below 180kt can be requested but may not be possible due to final approach separation requirements.
If a drone is seen, pilots must report the sighting to ATC and provide as much accurate information as possible. It is particularly important to pass sufficient information to ATC to positively identify it as a drone so the report should contain: its location; altitude; lateral and vertical separation; whether it was moving or stationary as well as its size, shape and appearance (e.g. quadcopter, camera underneath, colour, lighting etc.). They add that ATC must in turn inform supervisors, neighbouring sectors and pilots already on and joining the frequency.
BALPA Flight Safety Specialist, Steve Landells, said: “A drone strike can be much more severe than a bird strike, due to the solidity of its constituent components – collision testing carried out by BALPA, the Military Aviation Authority and Department for Transport confirmed this.
“We believe that drones have the potential to cause catastrophic accidents and one of the ways we can avoid this is by ensuring that pilots and air traffic controllers are following the same guidance and are able to work together to reduce the chances of a collision should an irresponsible drone operator choose to endanger aircraft and the public who fly in them.”
GATCO President, Luis Barbero, added: “Irresponsible drone use, resulting in a drone being flown in close proximity to aircraft, poses a serious threat to the safety of aviation.  We have witnessed recently the level of disruption a drone sighting can cause to air traffic control, airline and airport operations and ultimately the travelling public.
“We believe these drone sighting guidelines will enable air traffic controllers and pilots to work together, under the same assumptions, to deal with such an event as safely and effectively as possible.”
Read more about the guidelines on the BALPA blog