This year Luton celebrated its 80th anniversary. In that time, it has grown from a small municipal airfield to the fifth busiest airport in the UK. But handling that growth efficiently and safely doesn’t happen by accident.

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We understand you launched the first drone police unit earlier this year; what was the rationale behind that?

I was frustrated while dealing with an incident that our only aerial asset, a police helicopter, was deployed on another task so I was unable to get vital aerial footage that I needed for an investigation.

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The idea of Artificial Intelligence might seem like something for the future, but it is here already and the potential uses are growing by the day and last year we introduced machine learning to help us predict the likelihood of potential safety events in our London Terminal Control operation.

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Last month my colleague Chris Edwards talked about the transition that’s under way in our London Terminal Control room, where we’re introducing a new digital tool called EXCDS to replace the paper strips currently used by Controllers.

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It’s usually the first question that leaves people’s lips whenever we show them the new digital tower facility at Swanwick – is it really safe?

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Over the past few weeks we have highlighted the issues associated with airspace infringements including the significant impact they can have on controller workload, the necessary avoiding action, delays and cost that can result to other pilots following an incident.

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The Government recently published its response to the consultation it ran on the safe use of drones in the UK. The headline announcement is the plan to introduce mandatory registration for drones over 250 grams in weight, as well as mandatory competency testing to support it.

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Frequency Monitor Codes (FMCs) have now been in use in the UK for over 10 years and they’ve collected a range of names during that time such as Listening Squawks and Monitor Codes but they are all actually referring to the same thing.

Pilots are encouraged to use a FMC when they are flying outside controlled airspace, but close to controlled airspace boundaries, in order to increase situational awareness and help to combat infringements.

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Sunday’s incident at Gatwick, where a drone spotted on the airport’s final approach path caused the runway to be closed for two separate periods, has understandably received a lot of press coverage. The incident caused significant knock-on effects for air traffic control, beyond just stopping arrivals while the runway was closed and caused serious disruption in the sky above southern England.

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As the flying season is now well underway, we thought we’d provide a deeper look over the coming weeks, at some of the services that are available to pilots. Today we’re starting with the Lower Airspace Radar Service (LARS).

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