Drone Watch: Time for integrated airspace is now


FLYER has launched Drone Watch. It’s a dedicated strand of FLYER across the website, social media, newsletters and video, keeping a watchful eye on how drone trials are affecting General Aviation.

Drone Watch has a small but dedicated team with three aims:

  • Identify and publicise the proposed trials and segregated airspace
  • Scrutinise the workings of the trials and their impact on GA
  • Encourage the CAA and DfT to introduce integrated airspace use

Why are we doing this? There’s a ‘tsunami’ of Temporary Danger Areas created by drone trials which threatens to overwhelm General Aviation in the UK. Many of these trials are funded by Government grants.

There are at least 18 proposals to stage drone trials coupled to Temporary Danger Areas currently going through the Airspace Change Proposal process operated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Add that total to the 21 trials completed since 2019 and another 30 proposals withdrawn or paused, and you can see the scale of the issue.

Many of these trials will involve what’s known as Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations which cannot legally be carried out unless a Temporary Danger Area is created to segregate the drones from other aviation.

Apian drone

Drones like this are being used in trials across the country. One of the latest proposals is the Northumbria Apian NHS trial which will wreak havoc to GA around Newcastle. More here

FLYER and other flying groups – and the drone industry – are calling for the CAA and the Department for Transport to stop this piecemeal shredding of the UK’s airspace.

“It’s time to get serious about creating a solution for integrated airspace where aircraft and drones (also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) can operate together, safely,” said Dave Calderwood, consultant editor at FLYER magazine.

“The technology to create a ‘Detect and Avoid’ system is being tested. We call upon the CAA and DfT to come up with a plan, quickly, and put it into action.

“General Aviation is not just recreational pilots flying on nice days. It’s all flying other than airlines and military. That includes emergency services operating helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, business aviation, professional pilot training, special mission aircraft, Met Office weather aircraft, airport calibration flights, and much more.

“This huge industry, serving the nation, is being disrupted by this tsunami of trials, many of which we believe to be spurious, run by companies ‘grant harvesting’ Government cash.

“We’re not against the use of drones, far from it. But there appears to be little scrutiny of the value of some of these projects when the grants – taxpayer money – are handed out. There appears to be duplication too, with a number of operators trialling the same concept. 

“There’s a need to keep pilots informed about what’s happening near them, pressure the drone companies to reveal results of the trails and to encourage the authorities to move towards integrated airspace,” continued Dave. “Hence Drone Watch.” 

Drone Watch micro-site

Reminder:  What the CAA said 9 months ago

Fast forward to 1:54 for the Airspace pillar.


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