DRONE USERS in Solihull could face a potential five-year prison sentence if their unmanned aerial vehicle interferes with aeroplanes flying in and out of Birmingham Airport.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued a warning to drone users after a passenger plane was struck by what is believed to be a drone when approaching Heathrow Airport.
Though no arrests have been made, the incident is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police and their aviation security unit.
Previous offenders have been fined up to £1,800 for flying drones over sporting events, around airports and when endangering the public.
Now, users of drones in Solihull are being warned that fines and sentences can be issued if the gadget is used incorrectly at an inappropriate location.
Drones were first introduced in the 1840s when Austria sent an unmanned bomb-filled balloon to attack Venice.
Since then, drones have played a key part in both world wars, the 1991 Gulf War and – in modern times – capturing unparalleled footage from some of the globes most stunning mid-air vantage points.
A statement from the CAA has instructed drone users that it is the flyer’s responsibility to be aware of the rules that are currently in place for their own and the public’s safety.
It reads: “Drone users have to understand that when taking to the skies they are potentially flying close to one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world.
“We have a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders and light aircraft.
“Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations.
“It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports – anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.”
Despite the dangers of the image-capturing vehicles, local services frequently use drones – including the West Midlands Fire Service.
Conditions at ground level near to a fire can often make it difficult for firemen to assess a scene in its entirety – however drone support can help overcome this simple barrier.
A spokesperson for West Midlands Fire Service said: “Our drone provides invaluable information to commanders on the ground, helping them to manage and resolve incidents safely and effectively.
“It gives a bird’s eye view and real-time information about the direction in which a fire might be spreading, nearby risks and how best to deploy resources.
“The footage can be very useful in later debrief and training sessions.
“We’ve released video and photos taken by our drone via our social media channels and our followers really appreciate getting a completely different perspective on our work.”
The CAA has issued its advice on how to fly a drone safely and legally in and around Birmingham Airport.
1. Make sure you can see your drone at all times and don’t fly higher than 400 feet.
2. Always keep your drone away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields.
3. Use your common sense and fly safely – you could be prosecuted if you don’t.
4. Drones fitted with cameras must not be flown:
* Within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures.
* Over congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events.