16 October 2023

Drone pilots warned not to disrupt emergency helicopters

16 October 2023

Drone pilots have been warned not to fly near emergency helicopters after a spate of incidents.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said five Yorkshire Air Ambulance flights have been disrupted by the flying gadgets in the last 12 months.

Emergency service helicopters reported 13 cases in 2022 where the pilot felt a drone was too close to their aircraft.

We need everyone operating a drone to use their common sense

Several involved drones being used to film helicopters.

The CAA has produced a video explaining how flying near emergency helicopters can delay ill patients receiving critical care.

Drone operators who see or hear any helicopter flying near them are advised to land their drone and let the aircraft pass.

It is illegal to fly a drone in a way that hampers the emergency services when they are responding to an incident.

CAA spokesman Jonathan Nicholson said: “We are actively supporting the growth of drones in the UK to make sure we exploit their full potential, including flying as a hobby.

“But to achieve this we need everyone operating a drone to use their common sense and fly safely.

“This is especially the case near emergencies where we have seen drones being used to try and film an incident cause a delay to air ambulance helicopters.”

Captain James Booth, a Yorkshire Air Ambulance pilot, said: “If we are going to an emergency and a drone is spotted then it potentially delays us getting critical care to a patient while we check where the drone is and what it’s doing.

“In many cases the people we are helping need expert trauma care as soon as possible and any delay in us reaching a patient or transferring them quickly to a hospital can have a significant impact.”

Guidance and rules for using a drone in the UK are in the CAA’s Drone Code.

Most users must register with the CAA and pass an online test.

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