The International Council of Air Shows is encouraging event organizers to include “no drone” messaging in the publicity plan for 2017.
The booming popularity of small drones in recent years has put aircraft weighing up to a few pounds in the hands of hundreds of thousands of self-made pilots, and made many professionals in the aviation world uneasy. That includes some number of ICAS members who have asked the organization what the drone safety plan is, exactly, a spokesman for the organization said. ICAS is based in Leesburg, Virginia, and represents the organizers of more than 300 shows each year at which pilots fly more than 10,000 performances. ICAS Communications Director Matt Warnock said that inquiries from members were among three factors that prompted the Oct. 4 press release that led with the message, “leave the flying to the professionals.”
Warnock noted also that FAA drone regulations continue to evolve, and ICAS wants to get the word out before drones become a problem for airshow pilots, spectators, or organizers.
“Ultimately, we’d like the over 300 air shows in our network to start their own local campaign, spread the word and raise awareness,” Warnock wrote. “We want people, and especially our members, to know that we’re taking a lead position on this.”
ICAS directed members to online resources provided by the FAA including a No Drone Zone digital toolkit. ICAS also noted the ongoing work of the Know Before You Fly campaign and related efforts by public and private entities to educate drone operators, and also to develop technology including mobile apps that make it easy for drone operators to learn of flight restrictions (including those related to airshows), as well as the basic rules that apply to all drone operations.
It is unclear if the efforts to educate and raise awareness are paying off in terms of a reduction in reported drone sightings near airports and aircraft. The FAA has not released any new lists of drone sighting reports since March, when it published the latest spreadsheet detailing hundreds of drone sightings between August 2015 and January 2016. Critics including the Academy of Model Aeronautics (which, like AOPA, is a sponsor of the Know Before You Fly campaign and related efforts), questioned the validity of many of those reports, and noted that very few appear of the sightings reported to date appear to constitute a near miss or close call between a drone and another aircraft.
Still, ICAS felt it was time to speak up, and noted in the Oct. 4 press release that even one close call would be too many.