Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington debates involving the Department for Transport during the 2019 Parliament

Transport System: Failings

Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington Portrait Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington (CB)
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My Lords, I also speak in the gap and thank noble Lords for allowing me to do so. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Snape, on this debate. I will not be talking about railways, buses or anything in relation to that; I shall be talking about drones. We are on the verge of a massive impact of the use of drones in the civil context. We have had it in the military context, of course, in Ukraine, Israel and the like, and there is a real need here to bring the CAA together with the Ministry of Transport.

Here, I should declare my interest, as listed in the register, in general aviation and associated business interests. A number of experiments and systems have been used over the past three to four months in the north-east of England, and they have not been very successful at all. A pilot scheme, a corridor from Wansbeck to Alnwick to Berwick, has affected general aviation in such a way that other aircraft cannot fly. Drones were going to be used five to 15 times a day, but because of weather it did not happen. We are now going back to another kind of pilot scheme, along the same route and along the River Tyne, which will be conducted for six months. It will affect general aviation in a major way. Looking ahead, drones will be used extensively and there is therefore a need to put together a strategy that delivers sensibly and safely.

Over the years, a lot of work has been done on aircraft safety, and the conclusion reached is that any aircraft that hits organic matter—birds, for example—will probably survive, but if it hits a drone is very unlikely to survive at all; the result would be catastrophic. We have here something new, and it is going to happen and will affect us all. Speaking as a pilot—my friend and colleague the Minister is also a pilot—I can say that this issue really needs to be addressed. The potential is massive, so the issues need to be sorted out and the pilot schemes need to be done in a way that is satisfactory to all.