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Military Low-level aviation: IMPORTANT INFO for UK remote pilots

Before reading this post, were you aware of the LLBC Armed Forces Notification Service ?


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Today I had what could have been an absolutely horrific experience with some manned aviation, but it has led to the revelation of some truly helpful info, so sharing it with you all and expressing the hope that UK pilots tell all their friends ! :)

Before I go any further I will say that I was still scouting the site at the time, and did not have a UAV in the air. But if the incident had not occurred I would have done, and if it had occurred 10 minutes later we could have been in serious trouble, and this had me VERY worried.

I was attempting a flight session at one of my 'normal' flying areas, some public fields just at one of the entrances to the very attractive wooded South Downs here in the South East of the UK.
The car park there was full of cyclists, walkers, dog walkers, their cars, and the normal sort of people you find at 7 pm in these sorts of places as they prepare to navigate themselves up the best hills we've got...

Here it is - Halls Hill, and the field to the left of the car park, which is open to the public. I have flown from here maybe 10 times total over the course of 7 years in the hobby, always without incident.
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The joy of this site, for people like us, is that the field in question never has people in it for very long - a few of them just walk through it on their way up the hill, leaving the groundspace of that entire field mostly to oneself, and really nice, safe, contained area for low-level flyings which doesn't ever crest the surrounding hills. If there is a weak point about this site, it is those same hills, which mean higher level approaching aircraft visibility is poor, hence me usually staying underneath the treeline / hugging the terrain at around 100 -200 ft max so it isn't a problem.

As is typical, I took a little walk around the site before I set up, noting levels of people (low), wind conditions (perfect), and the movements and temperaments of some cows in a nearby field (not much to worry about there), when suddenly I heard the sort of rumble that people usually associate with earthquakes ! The cows looked worried, and so did I. I did think 'Chinook' as soon as I heard it, but then it grew SO loud I began to think no Chinook could possibly be that low and started looking at the road for the arrival of some sort of industrial machinery transport. But I didn't wait long because just after that, an Army Chinook arrived on the scene and passed about 40 ft to the right of the car park at, (get this !) no more than 30 ft above the canopy line, specifically that big green tree you can see on the right of the Google maps photo, so (according to my visual estimate) no more than 70 ft AGL...

Whilst I could hear it coming perhaps a minute in advance, that sound was low frequency and therefore omnidirectional, and could not be used to determine the approach vector of that craft. By the time I could see it for the first time, it was within 200 ft of me, 2 seconds later it had passed, and I noted with suitable levels of horror that if my craft had been there in the sky at the time and positioned really anywhere to the right of the car park, there would have been absolutely nothing I could have done to get it out of the way, and I would have moved DOWN by instinct, which would have been entirely the wrong thing to do here, and I might have descended directly into (or more likely been sucked into) its rotors had I done so, with god alone knows what results !

Very much spooked at the idea that this sort of thing was even a possibility, I abandoned the session (no flyings at all for me today!) and drove home to report this. After a little web searching for army complaints UK I came across the number for the Low Level Booking Cell operating out of West Wittering. An extremely helpful person on the other end of that freephone number calmly let me express the full levels of concern and worry I was feeling at the time, and then gave me some 'golden information' that I have been utterly unaware of the entire time I have been in this hobby.

It is possible to call that unit and give them advance warning of your multirotor flight, which will then be added to army systems such that low flying aviation can be avoided in the area in which you request to fly at the time you are doing it !! Amazing - so had I known that, and called the number this afternoon advising them of my flight, the chopper might not have been there at all, and there would be no need for concern, and my ongoing fears about these potential airspace conflicts have been almost entirely allayed, for army vehicles at least.

So I post this here in case any other UK remote pilot is unaware that they can contact the Low Level Booking Cell via the advisory number below.
I think it's a national number although it may route differently based on where you are calling from.

That number is: Advisory Line: 0800 515544
The website is here:
Now, it's truly great that we can actually do something about this, but I would have thought that the CAA would have been ALL OVER THAT in terms of promoting that number and making sure every UK remote pilot knows it !!
Yet 'Buzzy' the safety drone, and any of the pages I have ever seen about multirotor safety on their sites, or dronecode don't have even a single mention of it (that I have seen) ! So I will be writing to them to suggest they add it to their standard drone safety information ASAP, or if it is there, that they make it a heck of a lot more prominent ! Can't believe I didn't know about this, despite being what I thought was a very safe and well-researched UAVer...

So now I can rest a little easier knowing there are systems in place to mitigate these things, and I have yet another thing to add to the pre-flight checklist !

Happy safe flyings everyone, and thank you to LLBC West Wittering for the information and help.

In a slightly related matter I have also seen 2 small class private planes flying directly over the center of town today at what I estimated to be WELL under their 500 ft minimum. We really have to watch those guys - I get regular visual evidence (nothing remotely verifiable of course) that they are not following their own rules with regard to minimums over towns. That too I will be reporting to the CAA in the absence of specifics just because I see it SO often that I am beginning think it is routinely ignored.
 
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You had good enough weather to attempt to fly today? Rain all day in the Cotswolds.
 
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Can the military be stopped from flying in a specific area? I remember my area local authorities etc put request and hundreds of complaints low level flying was stopped, I remember harriers etc flying very low, it was a big noise by locals in newspapers, TV etc, and then MOD said they would stop. Now the area is very quiet, maybe the small plane once a week.
 
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Hi there,

I spoke to you on the phone earlier and just to clear up a few things. The Low Flying Booking Cell is the joint service coordinator for all military low flying in the UK, however it is run the the RAF out of RAF Wittering.
We also have an email that you can also inform us of your flights : [email protected]. This gives us a paper trail to follow should any incident occur. Should you plan to fly within a military air traffic zone then you will need to advise that aerodrome as well as ourselves.

If you have any more questions please dont hesitate to ask :)
 
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Can the military be stopped from flying in a specific area? I remember my area local authorities etc put request and hundreds of complaints low level flying was stopped, I remember harriers etc flying very low, it was a big noise by locals in newspapers, TV etc, and then MOD said they would stop. Now the area is very quiet, maybe the small plane once a week.
We can only avoid area's for very specific reasons and only for a limited time.
 
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Hmmm, my last name is Hall.
It looks well kept, as far as I could see.
 
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We can only avoid area's for very specific reasons and only for a limited time.
This was implemented in the 1980s so it may of been a different rule base, the area was special scientific interest and conservation area. I suppose a small area would be insignificant to the MOD just to ignore in the bigger picture.
 
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Should you plan to fly within a military air traffic zone then you will need to advise that aerodrome as well as ourselves.
Hi @Fin00. Thanks for clearing that up, replying to this thread, and being so helpful on the phone earlier. For your general information I am never seeking to be flying in a military air traffic zone. Just need to check that you concur that the area in question tonight is not within one of those ? I checked it in noflydrones.co.uk and it is unflagged there (area in question shown with badly drawn red arrow).

nodrones hallshill.JPG

Many thanks

AJ
 
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Hi @Fin00. Thanks for clearing that up, replying to this thread, and being so helpful on the phone earlier. For your general information I am never seeking to be flying in a military air traffic zone. Just need to check that you concur that the area in question tonight is not within one of those ? I checked it in noflydrones.co.uk and it is unflagged there (area in question shown with badly drawn red arrow).

View attachment 17229

Many thanks

AJ
I can confirm it is not within one of the areas. That was for more of a general information push to everyone. No problem at all just doing my job :)
 
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This is absolutely great piece of information what's been shared here. As I'm new to drones, just recently obtained my very first one Mantis Q, this is very helpful to know this kind of crevice exists along with other sources for informing meant to make drone flying safe to everyone. Thanks for sharing your experience AeroJ. Vic
 
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