Dave Calderwood


With Dave Calderwood


Creating chaos will not win drone companies any friends

Everyone wants progress where GA is concerned – but not at the expense of pilot safety

Our news story headlined ‘Severe and negative impact if Northumbria Danger Area goes ahead’ (3 August 2023) was the most read article on the FLYER website during August – by a country mile. It has clearly been shared around by concerned pilots and picked up by local press and others.

They have every right to be concerned. And Apian, the drone company behind the airspace proposal that would create the Temporary Danger Area, has reacted by calling a special meeting due to have been held on 24 August to ‘consult with stakeholders’.

That was a Thursday, by the way, not at all convenient for many people working or for those on holiday. Funny how the consultation period for the airspace change proposal coincided with the summer holidays, isn’t it?

By the way, that public consultation period for Apian’s airspace change proposal, called the Apian Northumbria NHS Air Grid, will end on 22 September 2023, should you wish to add your thoughts. Before you do, read our news story again and the excellent response by FLYER contributor Paul Kiddell, who is a local to the area concerned and will be one of the pilots affected first hand.

Paul is not only worried about the chaos the TDA may create for local General Aviation pilots but also the congestion at various ‘choke points’ for VFR pilots that would result. It’s dangerous as well as affecting other airspace users.

Is there any justification for the drone trials, which are part-funded by the taxpayer and supported by the local NHS managers? They say they can deliver medical supplies quicker and more efficiently… but is that really the case? 

Most urgent supplies can be delivered quickly and efficiently by motorcycle couriers. Others that are less urgent can go by post for next day delivery. Both are less costly and more able to operate in bad weather than a lightweight drone.

Anything bigger than a motorcycle courier or post could carry would be too much for the current drones and would have to go by van anyway.

There’s an element of ‘we’re having fun with other people’s money and maybe there’s a pot of gold somewhere’ about this whole business of NHS drone trials. If the Apian Northumbria NHS Air Grid does go ahead, let’s make sure the benefits and costs are really measured and compared with existing systems.

We’re not against progress, far from it, but creating chaos with taxpayer funds is not the way to go about developing a new worthwhile business.


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