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Complex Discussions Over Flying Predator Drones in UK Airspace

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Revealed: Internal Discussions Between MoD and Regulators on Flying Predator Drones in UK (excerpt)

(Source: Drone Wars UK; issued Feb 12, 2018)

By Chris Cole

Details of discussions between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on plans to allow the RAF’s upgraded version of the US Predator drone to be flown within the UK have been released following a Freedom of Information request by Drone Wars UK.

More than 200 pages of internal documents including emails, minutes of meetings, discussion papers and copies of slide presentations have been released. Many of the documents have been redacted, some extremely heavily.

David Cameron announced in October 2015 that the Britain was to purchase the new version of the Predator, which the UK is re-naming as ‘Protector’. The UK’s current type of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, the Reaper, are unable to be flown in the UK due to safety issues and the new version was purchased, in part, to enable the RAF to fly its large armed drones within the UK for training as well as security and civil contingency purposes.

The documents being published today by Drone Wars are dated between January 2016 and February 2017 and are related to a series of meetings between MoD officials, RAF officers, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) as well as the US drone manufacturer, General Atomics.

The papers show the MoD struggling to convince civil regulators that the new drone can safely be flown across all UK airspace. While discussions appear to be on-going (the release only includes papers up until February 2017), it seems likely that the drone will be restricted in where it can fly until regulators are convinced that technology and procedures are sufficiently developed to make it safe for unmanned and manned systems to fly together.

There is little sign in the papers of anyone suggesting the need for a proper parliamentary or public debate about the implications and impact of flying large military drones within the UK other than the acceptance of a need for a “communications strategy” to persuade the public to accept such flights. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Drone Wars website.