Airprox Reality Check: There is No Proof a Drone Has Ever Flown Too Near an Aircraft in the U.K.

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Despite headlines to the contrary, the group Airprox Reality Check finds that there is absolutely no proof that drones are flying too close to manned aircraft in the U.K.

Airprox Reality Check (ARC) “was formed as a response to the misrecording of drone airproxes in the UK, and the resulting economic and societal damage this is causing,” says the group’s website.  Like DJI and other stakeholders in the drone industry, Airprox Reality Check is searching for real, verifiable data on drone incidents – something that proves extremely difficult to find.

“The vast majority of drone airprox reports are simply a pilot reporting that he/she saw something: an eyewitness account. There is usually no other evidence,” says the group. “But eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable… Despite this, at present the UK Airprox Board simply records and publishes every drone airpox report received – which results in massively inflated figures, and a resulting massively inflated sense of the scale of the problem.”

Now, the group has analyzed data received from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request – and finds that there is absolutely no proof that drones have flown too close to manned aircraft.

“Following a Freedom of Information Act request, the UK Airprox Board, the official body which collates airprox (‘near miss’) reports from pilots, has revealed that there is no proof that a drone has ever flown close to an aircraft in UK skies,” says an ARC press release.

“The UK Airprox Board also revealed there is no confirmation that a drone has ever even been involved in any of the 350+ drone airprox reports that they have published to date.”

The FOIA response said:

in all cases UKAB has no confirmation that a drone has flown close to an aircraft other than the report made by the pilot(s).
Similarly, other than from the report of the pilot(s), UKAB has no confirmation that a drone was involved.

​ “​We have the crazy situation where completely unproven, unscrutinised, ‘UFO’ reports (which often describe drones being spotted at altitudes and locations that are impossible) have been used by the Government to drive regulation, as if they were solid, proven, facts,” said Simon Dale of ARC.  “They are, in fact, totally uncorroborated eyewitness accounts, and are generally based on the simple errors of perception to which humans are prone. In several cases we have shown that the object observed was in fact a manned aircraft in the distance, not a drone at all.”

“The government is mid-way through introducing legislation based on this now discredited data. Given that it is now clear that the drone airprox reports are entirely unproven, and in the vast majority of cases, entirely bogus, the Government must recognise the huge mistake it has made, and cancel the proposed regulations before they do irreparable harm to the drone industry, model flying community, and, in the longer term, the whole aviation sector.” said Mr Dale.


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