Official probe after drone spotted at Oban airport

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An official investigation has been launched after reports of drones being flown near Oban and The Isles airport.

Argyll and Bute Council, which runs the airport at North Connell, confirmed a police-led investigation was ‘ongoing’.

It follows reports from the airport last week of drones having been operated ‘without permission’ within an area called the aerodrome traffic zone (ATZ).

‘One drone was reported just a short distance from the approach to runway 01,’ it said.

The council declined to comment further because of the ongoing investigation.

The Civil Aviation Authority said it received formal safety reports in confidence, while Police Scotland investigated incidents deemed ‘sufficiently serious’.

The penalty for ‘endangering the safety of an aircraft’ carries custodial sentences of up to five years and an unlimited fine, the airport has warned.

There has been speculation online that someone inexperienced may have inadvertently flown into the restricted area while capturing aerial footage of the tidal phenomenon at the Falls of Lora.

Others said most drone owners knew the rules and had sufficiently sophisticated models with the proper technology.

The problem may be unregistered drone owners flying inexpensive versions which retail locally from as little as £19.99.

Shoppers are encouraged to ‘pass a drone test’ and register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Local councillors said the reports were worrying and encouraged people to do their research before flying drones.

Councillor Elaine Robertson said: ‘Any activity which causes safety issues at Oban Airport is of the gravest concern.

‘The safety zone is there to protect. I appeal to all to be mindful of the danger and to respect and observe the drone exclusion zone for the safety of personnel and flights.’

Councillor Kieron Green said drones offered opportunities to improve connectivity in places such as the West Highlands.

‘However, clear rules exist to ensure the safety of operators and the public when drones are being flown,’ said Councillor Green.

‘For recreational use these include retaining line of sight, keeping below 400ft, and not entering restricted spaces around airports,’ he said.

Councillor Julie McKenzie said the onus of responsibility was on the drone owner to check where it was safe to fly.

Councillor McKenzie said: ‘I would appeal to anybody who is going to be flying drones to make sure they are doing the proper risk assessments and paying attention to the legislation before they even leave the house.

‘That would make sure they are not endangering anybody’s life by going out with a drone.’

The airport has warned that operators of drones must seek permission from the airport before attempting any flight within the ATZ, otherwise it is illegal.

The council said the ATZ is for the protection of aerodrome traffic.

At Oban the ATZ is two miles and 2,000 feet. Anyone wishing to enter the ATZ must get permission from the Flight Information Services Officer.

The airport receives a number of such enquiries every few months – often from companies using drones to carry out aerial survey work on roads or bridges.

Drone registration legislation also came into effect in the UK on November 30, 2019, and is mandatory for drone owners and operators with drones weighing between 250g and 20kg.

Registration costs £9 and can be completed online at register-drones.caa.co.uk

The Civil Aviation Authority say those who do not register risk a £1,000 fine.

The UK Airprox Board, based at RAF Northolt in Middlesex, maintains logs of ‘near accidents’ at airports.

In the 10-years of its logs, drones account for the overwhelming majority of incidents, although there has never been a logged incident at Oban Airport.