Calling all drones on frequency...
Most of us reading this article could never have imagined that this Blog title would even be considered as a reality in our lifetime. However, like it or not, these Next Generation aeronautical devices have arrived at our doorstep and we need to start preparing ourselves to adapt to their daily schedules.
Their alien like appearance takes on a similar form with conspicuous shapes and sizes whilst in flight, that make human and animals alike gaze skywards in absolute amazement at this infiltration of a new order. Globally, Drones are supplying a service that was always going to be needed in our fast-paced lifestyles. Wherever we look up to the skies above, our worldly airspace suddenly appears to be receiving a `shake up` in procedures and design, most noticeably between 400-foot AGL and below where drone activities are most prominent.
Terms like Drones, RPAS and UAV are becoming all too common within the make-up of the Aviation fraternity. With all this newfound activity in the air, safety is becoming a concern for Air traffic movements. Prior to the introduction of Drones into our skies, procedures for aircraft movements in controlled or uncontrolled Airspace have been well documented and applied by all the relevant stakeholders. Communication on frequency between all parties concerned has ensured that everyone affected are confidently updated about each other’s position and movements within each relevant sector.
While Drones can be seen as a similar craft to rotary winged Aircraft, better known as helicopters, specifically with respect to their movement whilst in flight or in the hover, their varying sizes and recovery actions are generally quicker than the most modern and sophisticated helicopter currently on the market. This means that a Drone Pilot needs to give other Air Traffic within the sector they are flying in, advance notice on frequency about their intentions where possible.
This is easier said than done and places the Drone Pilot under additional pressure, as they multi-task managing the drones flight path on a control console while simultaneously reaching for the `Push to Talk` switch on their handheld VHF radio in order to transmit their intentions.
Drone Pilots need to be able to communicate their intentions in a manner that is clear and concise which means that they, just like any other pilot on frequency, need to conform to standard radio telephony procedures as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Just because a Drone is usually restricted to flying between 400 Foot Above Ground Level and below, does not necessarily mean that the only possible traffic in this area could be a random Kite or radio-controlled aircraft for example. Low level operations such as Crop spraying, Helicopter tracking recovery operations, Search and Rescue Operations, to name but a few, are just some of the types of activities that could `infiltrate` an Airspace that is not set aside exclusively for Drone Operations. Procedures are being developed at regulatory levels for all States to implement what is required with respect to maintaining safe drone operations.
As modern technology continues to advance at an extra-ordinary pace, and Drones continue to become part of our everyday lives, we have to consider the fact that Radio Telephony, (RT) procedures was there first, having started to ALREADY become an integral part of the aviation operation in and around 1915. Just like Morse code, RT has always proven itself as a guaranteed form of communication, maintaining a supporting role in the application of safety and discipline on frequency, when used in accordance with the procedures that RT was developed for.
Drone Pilots therefore need to include RT into their flight operations and, by doing so, ensure that Communication on frequency becomes a part of their start up, pre and post flight schedule in support of Safety in the skies.
- Dylan Kemlo