The government is reviewing rules that may force hobbyist drone owners to both register their drones and take a safety test (companies such as Drone Scotland have already passed a number of government approved assessments to operate). The measures are being looked at in an attempt to mitigate potential collisions between casual drone pilots and manned aircraft.
Ministers are also proposing to make it a criminal offence for owners to fly in registered no-go areas including airports, prisons and military facilities. Offenders could face hefty fines and potentially custodial sentences.
The police have used existing laws to prosecute drone operators that have endangered the public and used drones to smuggle drugs into prisons. The new, drone laws, proposed will help the authorities prosecute users for drone specific offences in response to the substantial increase in the number of Drones being purchased.
It is estimated that the drone industry will be worth over £100 billion by 2025. The skies above the UK are therefore going to become more crowded by both the hobbyist and commercial operators. Delivery companies and fast food providers are already assessing the feasibility of drones delivering to our homes.
Most drones are flown safely and the Civil Aviation Authority recognises the benefits that Drones can bring to the country including farming, emergency services, healthcare and logistics. Their job is to implement policies that will both support this growth and, at the same time, ensure drones are flown safely.
Pilots are already expressing concerns about increasing ‘near misses’. At this stage, the full risk of drones to aeroplanes is unknown. They do however, warn that a catastrophe could be on the horizon.
Current regulations by the CAA state that drones to be kept in line of sight (and no further than 500 metres horizontally and no more than 120 metres vertically. They also forbid any drone from flying within 50 metres of buildings, vehicles, people or over large crowds, and anyone using a drone for commercial purposes has to register it with the CAA. But the new plans would mean that hobbyists would also have to register their drones and take a test similar to the driving theory test.
The reality is that Drones are here to stay. The legal system has to respond to both protect the public and support the rapid growth of this emerging market.
For more information on flying safely visit Drone Safe
Bjorn Aaen, Drone Scotland