Media Release: Canada’s National Drone Association Condemns Gatwick Incident



(OTTAWA): Unmanned Systems Canada/Systèmes Télécommandés Canada (USC-STC), the national industry association representing the unmanned vehicle systems sector, condemns the deliberate, illegal and irresponsible use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) to disrupt commercial flights at Britain’s Gatwick Airport.

On Wednesday, December 19th close to 9 pm local time, Gatwick authorities began reporting two unauthorized drones flying in the immediate vicinity of the airport causing an urgent diversion of many flights. Nearly 700 other planned commercial flights were cancelled within the first 18 hours. Sussex Police tweeted repeatedly about the incident, and it is anticipated that Gatwick will remain closed on Friday, December 21st, as much of the world heads into its heaviest annual travel period. Many thousands of commuters have been severely inconvenienced and frightened by the incident, and the disruption has massive financial implications.  

“As an association, we are appalled at what has been unfolding in Gatwick,” says USC-STC Chair Mark Aruja. “Unmanned Systems Canada has long worked closely with Transport Canada to help develop the regulatory framework to ensure that flights in Canadian airspace are safe and rules are followed.

“Every day, hundreds of responsible operators in Canada utilize drone technologies for good. Lives have been saved through drone-assisted Search and Rescue operations. Innovators in the agri-food industry use drones to monitor and improve the health of crops and livestock, climate changes can be documented, and first responders are able to quickly gain situational awareness during and after natural disasters,” says Aruja. “In addition, human beings can now avoid risky jobs as drones take on ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’ work.” 

Unfortunately, the overwhelmingly positive contributions that drones make on a daily basis – both in Canada and globally – can be undermined by a single rogue ‘AIRPROX’ (or airport proximity) incident like this, which in no way reflects the vast majority of operators who take safety, regulations, and separation from manned aircraft and airports very seriously. 

But, says Aruja, Gatwick should also serve as a warning: Canada must be prepared to respond should a similar event occur in Canadian airspace.

“Technologies are now available to counter the malicious use of drone technologies, and we encourage joint efforts between industry, NavCanada, Transport Canada and airport authorities to protect Canadians and the international commerce which relies upon the continued safe management of our airspace.”

In addition, Aruja stresses that the time has come for the release of new standards for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) operators across Canada, whether professional or recreational. 

“Effective training is a key to ensuring that safety risks are minimized in our aviation professions. We call for the Hon. Patricia Hadju (Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour) to move forward with our industry association’s proposal to establish a national pilot certification program for drone operators. Furthermore, we call upon Transportation Minister Hon. Marc Garneau to take no further delays in promulgating the regulations which we believe are central to safe operations and underpinning the Canadian drone industry.”

Mark Aruja is available for media comment on this issue at 613-882-3077 or @ [email protected] 
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ABOUT USC: Unmanned Systems Canada / Systèmes Télécommandés Canada (USC-STC) is a not-for-profit association representing entrepreneurs, businesses, students academia, industry, and government organizations working in the aerial, ground and marine remotely-piloted and unmanned vehicle systems sector.