Yorkshire Air Ambulance involved in 'near miss' with drone

A Yorkshire Air Ambulance pilot has warned of the dangers of drones after a helicopter was involved in a ‘near miss’.

Thursday, 12th September 2019, 2:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th September 2019, 4:18 pm
A Yorkshire Air Ambulance was involved in a near miss last night

An air ambulance was on its way back to its base, near Wakefield, when it narrowly avoided a strike with a drone at around 6.50pm yesterday, as the helicopter was flying at around 1,300ft.

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A drone, flying above the height it is legally allowed to reach, missed the helicopter by just three metres.

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Steve Waudby, YAA’s chief pilot, said: “We cannot stress enough the seriousness of what happened last night to the crew.

“It was only due to the vigilance of our front seat paramedic spotting the drone, and the rapid reaction of our pilot, that the crew avoided a direct collision.

“It is estimated that they missed the drone by less than three metres in the end. The consequences don’t bare thinking about if a direct strike had occurred. We’d be telling a very different story today if it had.”

He added: “The most ironic thing about all of this is that we spent most of yesterday working with the Civil Aviation Authority to help them create a new ‘Drone Awareness’ short film to help highlight the dangers and issues of operating drones, and to make users more aware of aircraft operators like us and the police.

“Whoever was operating this drone was doing so at an illegal height – the maximum height it should have been operating at was 120m or 400ft, so as you can see, this drone was flying over three times the height it should have been at.

“Whether the operator is aware or not, they have put the lives of our crew in extreme danger.

“I would appeal to the operator to please come forward and identify themselves – we have a very clear description of what the drone looked like and it was very, very distinctive.

“The police have been made aware, as well as the Civil Aviation Authority and the Air Accidents Investigations Branch have also been notified. Again, I cannot stress the seriousness of what has happened.”

Peter Sunderland, chairman of the YAA, added “Firstly I would like to pay tribute to our pilot – his prompt and professional actions avoided the most unthinkable disaster.

“We are proud to have a team of highly skilled, ex-military pilots as part of our team, and last night’s incident just goes to highlight how important these professional pilots are to the charity.

“Also to the two paramedics and doctor who were on board – all of their intense training over the years came to fruition last night and I am proud of how they handled this incident. The crew are obviously shaken from what happened and we will be supporting them in any way we can.”

The CAA said: “It is against the law to fly a drone above 400ft – 120m – or close to airports without permission and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including up to five years in prison.

“Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations.

“The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe. The CAA’s ‘Dronecode’ provides advice on how to fly your drone safely and follow the rules.”