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Haters love to hate

28 May 2020

I got a friendly call from CAA yesterday.

Well as frendly as any call from CAA can be when they're investigating a complaint.

Back in April I also had a call from CAA and the nice young lady who made the call almost apologised for the fact that they'd received some complaints about my drone flying during the lockdown. She acknowledged that I was compliant with the rules but just wanted to make sure that there weren't going to be any copy-cat flights by others who might not understand what's allowed and what's not.

We had a chat and I even made a video to clarrify for others, exactly what was allowed and what wasn't. I also took the time to show the steps I'd taken to ensure safety during my flights and emphasize the need for others to follow the key rules -- such as not flying over other people's property without permission during the lockdown.

At that stage, all seemed well and I thought that would be an end to the matter.

Well it seems I was wrong, sort of.

Those original complaints were, I figured were probably made by people who were concerned but ignorant of the facts and the rules under which I was operating. These people, I thought, probably had way too much time on their hands because of the lockdown so probably felt they were doing the world a service by complaining at what they figured must be illegal or dangerous drone flying on my part.

Now I'm not so sure that those complaints were done by some person or persons who were genuinely concerned for the public's safety.

The reason for my doubt is that now some person (or persons) have made further complaints about other flights that have appeared on my YouTube channel.

CAA are going to send me more details of the complaint next week but in our phone conversation yesterday, Chris from CAA told me that there'd been a complaint about my flight in fog, a "bird-clearing" flight at the airfield and claims that I'd been flying within 4Km of the hospital helipad.

None of this concerns me because, as you'd expect, I can easily prove that I was compliant with the rules and regulations at all times during those flights.

What does worry me though is that it's becoming clear that some person (or persons) seem to have an axe to grind with me and they're (ab)using the CAA complaints process in as a way of exercising that greivance.

The other concern is the effect this has on the hobby and the future of regulation because, even though the complaints are groundless and will be dismissed (just like the previous ones), every time a complaint is made it adds to the "incident report" total that CAA keeps in respect to drones. This number is often touted as justification for harsher regulation and restriction of drones and RC models -- even though even the most cursory inspection shows that the huge majority of those "incidents" do not represent any infringement of the regulations or any risk to the safety of person or property".

It beggars belief that some of the complaints consist of nothing more than "I saw a drone", and that's according to CAA's own official records.

I guess (I hope) that CAA are legally obligated to investigate every complaint laid by members of the public and thus they end up having to waste an inordinate amount of time following up on baseless allegations or the ignorant fears of a public that has been "sensitised" to the presence of even the smallest child's toy in our skies.

Mind you, I laid an official complaint several months ago when a drone was knocked from the sky by some trampers with stones -- since this was (without doubt) a breach of the Civil Aviation Act. Strangely enough, I've heard no more about that complaint. So why are they investigating baseless allegations against me (when no injury or damage is involved) while a very legitimate complaint that resulted from the actual downing of an unmanned aircraft and which was documented by the media remains unresolved.

Of course there's no way that CAA will tell me who has been making these complaints against my videos -- whether it's a jealous or slightly unbalanced individual or justd a whole bunch of randoms who have nothing better to do with their time. The privacy Act usurps the right of the accused to get such information via an Official Information Act request.

So we'll see what happens... but I suspect this won't be the last time CAA are forced to wast valuable time and resources "just checking" that I'm complying with the rules when in reality, they have far more important things to do.

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