Belfast Telegraph

Get a drone for Christmas? Look out for power cables or you could bring down NIE network

By Rachel Martin

Drones were one of the most popular Christmas presents of 2015, but new owners have been warned to look to the skies before trying them out.

NIE Networks issued a safety warning to anyone flying them to stay away from power lines and substations, saying they could cause serious damage in the event of a crash.

Rachele Glendinning, NIE Networks safety officer, told how the devices had already caused power cuts.

"The new drones and quadcopters are very powerful and can fly at great speeds and heights," she added. "The range is such that they can be very difficult to see, especially on duller or rainy days.

"If one of these drones was to strike an overhead power line or crash into a substation, it could cause major equipment damage and also injure those on the ground. 

"If you've been given a drone for Christmas, we want you to enjoy it safely, so fly it where there is no risk of hitting overhead power lines or substations.

"If you do lose control of your aircraft and it falls into a substation or brings down an overhead power line, stay well away and contact NIE Networks immediately on 034 5764 3643. It's not worth the risk to try to retrieve it yourself."

There are currently few legal restrictions on users of small drones. Only unmanned aircraft weighing more than 20kg, or those which are used commercially, need to be used by licensed operators.

However, all drones should not be flown within 50m of a person or within 150m of a congested area.

Legally, drones should also be flown "within sight". Specifically, this means, unmanned aircraft cannot fly above 400 feet in altitude or further than 500m horizontally without permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Belfast Telegraph