Thursday 7 March 2019 12:50 pm

MPs launch inquiry into drone risk after Gatwick travel chaos

MPs have launched an investigation into the ethical and safety implications of drones in the wake of travel chaos at UK airports.

The Science and Technology Committee (STC) has launched a probe into the use of civilian drones across the UK ahead of the government’s so-called Drone Bill, which is expected this year.

Read more: Drone scare at Dublin Airport temporarily grounds flights

The inquiry comes after hundreds of thousands of passengers were grounded at Gatwick days before Christmas when drones were sighted flying over the airfield. In January all departures from Heathrow were temporarily stopped due to a drone sighting, while Dublin airport ground to a halt last month following a similar incident.

The chaos has led to a backlash from disgruntled passengers and raised questions about the ability of UK authorities to deal with drone incidents.

The increased popularity of drones has also led to dozens of near misses with passenger aircraft.

MP Norman Lamb, who chairs the STC, said: “Increased drone usage represents a significant technological development and offers a range of opportunities across a variety of UK industries.

“However, increased usage with a lack of effective regulation also brings an unspecified amount of potential risks to both national security and public safety.”

The Committee has called for submissions on a range of topics including the ethical implications of drones on civilian privacy and safety and the effectiveness of anti-drone technology.

“We must act now to ensure that there is effective regulation before there is any further expansion,” Lamb added.

Read more: Government extends 'no-fly zones' around airport runways after drone chaos

Today Vodafone announced it has joined a consortium of organisations aimed at testing the safe flight of drones in the same airspace as manned aircraft.

The network provider said it will provide 4G and 5G technology to the project, which is testing the use of mobile connectivity to provide accurate location-based information about drones that is not vulnerable to jamming.