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NATS launches app for drone pilots



Air traffic controller aims to reduce near misses by warning drones clear of commercial aircraft

National air traffic control service NATS has released a mobile app designed to steer drones clear of airspace used by commercial aircraft.

Named Drone Assist, it has been made available freely on Android and iOS in an effort to reduce the number of near misses, described by the organisation as “significant” over the past year, and reduce disruption to air traffic.

It gives drone pilots an interactive map of areas of airspace used by commercial operations, urging them to stay well clear. Unsurprisingly, NATS said drones should always be kept well away from aircraft and airports.

The app also includes the location of ground based hazards such as power lines, schools and sports venues, and provides a ‘Fly Now’ feature that shares the user’s drone flight location with other app users.

It has been developed with Altitude Angel, a company that specialises in management technology for drone traffic.

Stick to the rules

Phil Binks, NATS drone lead, said: “With the number of drone incidents on the rise, it’s clear that many people are unaware of the rules or their legal obligations as pilots. Drone Assist is designed to help everyone abide by the rules, identify areas of controlled and restricted airspace and help them enjoy flying whilst ensuring their safety and the safety of other airspace users.”

The UK Airprox Board, which investigates reports of aircraft near misses, has so far reported on approximately 50 drone incidents this year up from 11 during 2015.

NATS has expressed some worries that the risks will increase with drones being given as Christmas presents this year, especially as the Civil Aviation Authority has warned that only 40% of drone owners are aware of its Dronecode for good practice in flying drones.

Image from NATS

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