London is one of the cities with an identity problem when it comes to airports. There is no airport in London, instead a group of airports serve the city at different distances from it. London Gatwick is the second largest and is located with its single track in the province of Sussex, about 30 miles south of the city.
If you follow British news sources, you may have heard little about Gatwick in the last few days. Its runway was closed for two short periods and selected flights were diverted, due to what is reported as drone surveillance. This is an extremely serious matter, the responsible owners of multi-rotors will be aware of the provisions for distance and altitude related to flights near airports.
If you’re familiar with the way the mass media reports drone stories, you probably won’t need to click on the link above to the BBC report to find out its tone. There is significant concern in the multi-rotor community that it presents a very one-sided view and nominally accepts the claim that the surveillance was an unmanned aircraft, when in fact there is no evidence of it at all. For those of us who have seen many such stories come and go, it is difficult to disagree with the pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles, at best there are lazy reports in the air, and at worst – outright journalistic irresponsibility. .
As a reader of Hackaday, you are accustomed to writers who have in-depth knowledge of the subjects they write on. We don’t know all the possible aspects of technology and sometimes we misunderstand things, but we all have very strong backgrounds in the industry and the communities we write about. We have engineering education, we have worked in a wide variety of technology industries, we build our own entertainment things and we have created and managed hackspaces.
By comparison, the journalists whose work you will read in the mass media are generalists. They will have specific educational training and a certain set of interests, but in their work they cover any stories that descend from the endless bar of events. Thus, when a drone story emerges, they find themselves outside their normal comfort zone of politics or local news and cannot rely on their experience to inform their coverage. The responsible journalistic approach is to do a little research and ask relevant questions, asking for specific evidence of the participation of unmanned aerial vehicles. We are still waiting for this to happen with these allegations of encounters with drones.
Building a multi-rotor and flying is an important feature of our community, and anything that draws law enforcement attention to the type of work we do should worry us all. Multirotores are not the only things covered by Hackaday that can be misrepresented in the same way. We have visited this topic before, take a look our analysis of a series of air proximity reports blamed on drones. Some of them you couldn’t think of.
Image of Gatwick Airport: Andre Wadman [GFDL 1.2].