Drones the hot topic at RAF Wittering as air safety talks held

Squadron Leader Tom Hammond, Simon Robertson and Iain Cooper in conversation at Air Traffic Control
Squadron Leader Tom Hammond, Simon Robertson and Iain Cooper in conversation at Air Traffic Control
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Air safety was top of the agenda last week when aerial photography company Fly2View visited Royal Air Force Wittering and met the station’s air traffic controllers.

Based in Hallaton near Market Harborough, Fly2View is a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licensed aerial filming company that operates professional drones. Managing director Simon Robertson contacted RAF Wittering when Fly2View was working close to the borders of the Cambridgeshire station’s airspace.

Safely in the back of the vehicle, two of the drones used by Fly2View

Safely in the back of the vehicle, two of the drones used by Fly2View

Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have featured prominently in the news headlines lately. Simon and his safety manager, Iain Cooper, visited RAF Wittering to get an insight into the station’s flying operations and share their experiences as commercial drone operators.

Squadron Leader Tom Hammond is the senior air traffic control officer at RAF Wittering. He said: “I’m pleased that Simon and Iain took the time to come and visit us, it’s been very useful. There is enough airspace for everyone, but the key to using that airspace safely is timely communication between us and the drone flying community.”

RAF Wittering is one of the busiest flying stations in the Royal Air Force. The station has four flying squadrons, each with a training role. Flying training means that student pilots and instructors must practice manoeuvres until their skills are developed enough to move onto the next stage.

Mr Roberston said: “Contacting the nearby airports and aerodromes to where we are working is a key part of our planning and makes perfect sense. Power cables, large buildings and congested areas are also things we must carefully consider, but people can help with this process by using the NATS Drone Assist App.

Flight Lieutenant Glyn Ward (Ops Wing), Simon Robertson, Iain Cooper and Squadron Leader Tom Hammond

Flight Lieutenant Glyn Ward (Ops Wing), Simon Robertson, Iain Cooper and Squadron Leader Tom Hammond

“We have to co-exist, but talking to each other gives us that extra level of safety – if you know where something is, you know what to do about it.”

Drone flying is an accessible and enjoyable hobby for thousands of people and has created a whole new commercial industry. A working knowledge of the skies is essential and professional pilots are trained from day one to be aware of other air users.

The CAA has a website for drone users at https://dronesafe.uk/ and it contains all the necessary guidance and regulations for safe flying.

RAF Wittering is reaching out to nearby drone operators. The station has an email address for professional drone users and hobbyists alike if they have questions or would like to inform the station of future activity: WIT-OpsWgStnOps@mod.gov.uk.

Wing Commander Nick Maxey is officer commanding operations wing. He is a pilot and responsible for the safe running of RAF Wittering’s airfield and airspace.

He said: “It’s all about the safe environment. The Royal Air Force must train tomorrow’s pilots, commercial drone operators need to earn their living and amateurs want to enjoy their hobby.

“All of us who operate in the air have a responsibility to follow the law and fly safely. By talking to each other we make the skies safer for everyone, so if you are thinking of flying a drone near to RAF Wittering please get in touch and let us know.”

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