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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Drone... groan!

3 August 2018

Okay, it's time for my regular moan about drones so don't groan.

Apparently, a "pallet sized drone" was seen by the flight crew of a 737 passenger jet flying at 4,000 feet near Edmonton International Airport in Canada.

The media immediately kicked into hysteria mode and started publishing all sorts of stories about how people nearly died and about how "recreational" drone enthusiasts are endangering the lives of innocent passengers.

Sigh!

Well I'm pretty well acquainted with the various "drones" on the market and I'd have to say that I don't actually know of any "off the shelf" recreational multirotor drone which is 4 feet across... as claimed by the pilots of that 737.

Your average "drone" is much, much smaller. Indeed, the only people who are likely to be found using a 4-foot drone are commercial operators -- so why isn't the media blaming them?

And then there was another incident report in which it was claimed that "the pilot noticed the drone flying several feet away" from a helicopter fighting a fire in East Idaho, USA.

Seriously? They've got drones that can fly in the downwash of a helicopter's rotors now?

In this second case, I'm sure the pilot may have seen a drone but I'm also sure it wasn't "several feet away" and it's shite like this that ruins the credibility of these hysterical news reports.

And now I see that Stuff has decided to publish another of its regular "let's vilify drones" pieces again.

What a load of tosh this story contains.

For a start, the way it is worded is very crafty... implying (but not actually stating) that there were 268 drone "near misses" over the past 7 months.

Now, while their may have been 268 complaints regarding drones, the *vast* majority of these would have been baseless or simply members of the public saying "I saw a drone". Honestly, I kid you not, I have detailed reports which show that many of the reports CAA receive and file as "incidents" are simply people contacting the Authority to report seeing a drone from their back yard or while out and about. These do not represent any risk to public safety and, by anyone (except CAA's) reasoning, ought not actually be classified as an "incident".

Then there's the contradictory information in this story...

CAA's "special flight operations and recreational aviation manager" Clayton Hughes is quoted as saying: "When you're talking about a large jet, whatever they are seeing does have to be reasonably close for them to see it... if they were 100m away, they'd never see them".

Yet, here is of the reports that CAA have accepted and included in their latest incident list:

March 25th, 2018

Boeing 777, Auckland

On approach, a drone was sighted at the 10.30 position, 100 yards and at the same level.

Okay.. so *can* you see a drone at 100m from a large jet or can't you?

Mr Hughes says you can't -- yet they are happy to accept exactly such claims and file them as an incident.

This does not pass the sniff test, IMHO.

And let's take a closer look at those 268 "incidents" that have been filed over the past seven months...

How many have actually been *real*?

Well the fact that CAA themselves admit that they've only investigated eight drone-related incidents in the past year would seem to indicate that the *vast* majority of these "incidents" are indeed simply the "I saw a drone" type.

And finally, as if to really show their hand as trying to create a climate of hysteria.. the Stuff story ends with this quote:

"It's very scary to think what could happen if one flew into an aircraft"

What the hell?

On *very* rare occasions, drones and aircraft *have* collided and guess what the outcome was... NOTHING!

Not one single life has been lost as a result of the operation of recreational multirotor drones -- EVER!

Of course Stuff isn't going to let actual facts get in the way of a good story, are they?

Fake news is alive and well -- in the pages of Stuff and most of the other so-called mainstream "news media" today.

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