Drones are a rapidly growing problem for aircraft

Near misses on the rise

A new report from Bard College in the US highlights the growing problem for pilots of planes and helicopters: drones getting in their way. A total of 921 incidents were analysed from December 2013 to September 2015 and over a third of those were defined as "close encounters" - in other words there was a real danger of a collision in midair.

90 percent of the logged incidents occurred above 400 feet, the maximum altitude that drones are allowed to fly as per the guidelines published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the States. What's more, a majority of the incidents were recorded within five miles of an airport - also a no-fly zone according to the FAA's rules.

"Our findings indicate that incidents largely occur in areas where manned air traffic density is high and where drone use is prohibited," say the researchers. If you're getting a drone for Christmas, you might want to read up on what you can and can't do with it.

Droning safely

In the UK the guidelines are much the same as they are in the US: keep your drone in sight, stay below 400 feet and stay well away from other aircraft and airports. It sounds like common sense but the Bard College report suggests plenty of drone pilots could use a reminder.

If your drone has a camera attached to it, you must keep a distance of 50 metres between other people, vehicles, buildings and structures. You should also stay away from congested areas and large gatherings of people, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority says.

Drone manufacturers and regulators are working on ways to make drone flying safer. One suggested proposal is integrated geo-fencing software, so drones will automatically refuse to enter certain areas; however, this isn't a foolproof solution and still relies on the cooperation of the operator.