As the popularity of drone flying increases, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) are constantly working to adapt and develop their rules and regulations to allow users to continue having fun while maintaining a safe environment for the owners, the public and other airspace users.
The content of this blog was accurate to date of writing (August 2017).
What are the Current Rules and Regulations?
So before I get into what’s new, lets first briefly go over the current key rules and regs that are in place.
- Do not fly higher than 400ft/120m above ground level
- Do not fly further than 1640ft/500m horizontal distance from yourself
- Keep the drone in visual line of sight
- Keep the drone at least 50m away from people, buildings or vehicles that are not under your control
- Do not fly near airports, airfields or any other busy manned airspace
The Latest Development
In July of this year, the UK government announced their plans to introduce a drone registration programme and safety awareness courses for owners of drones heavier than 250 grams.
Who Does This Apply To?
This new programme will apply to hobbyists and enthusiasts wanting to fly a drone weighing 250 grams or more. This covers all current DJI drones (including the DJI Spark which weighs in at 300g), but excludes smaller drones such as the Hubsan X4, Q4 and Tiny Whoops.
For commercial operators flying drones for business purposes, there will be no difference. The PFCO license must still be obtained through the Civil Aviation Authority after passing your qualification through an NQE.
When Will This Be Put Into Action?
There are no firm dates yet but I can’t see it happening any earlier than 2018.
How Will It Be Enforced And How Will It work?
I have no idea. And I think this will be their biggest struggle. Unless manufacturers or distributors force users to register upon purchase, I can’t see how they will make people register their drone or attend these safety courses.
And how would enforcement work? Will the police start approaching us in parks asking for a registration and safety certificate? And what if you don’t do it, what will the the consequence be?
Is It A Good Idea?
The idea of drone registration isn’t a new one. In the US last year, the Federal Aviation Authority (American version of the UK CAA) rolled out a similar programme, but after less that 12 months it was abolished due to a court case against it.
The safety awareness course is a good idea but it depends how they go about the logistics of it. If it’s a free course, run on a regular basis at various venues around the country, it may be a success. The other side of the battle is to make people aware of this course and registration process. I can imagine this will largely lay in the hands of drone distributors and manufacturers.
I support the thinking behind the drone registration programme as it creates a form of accountability for drone flying and the people operating them. However, if someone has bad intentions or simply isn’t aware that they are flying recklessly, if they don’t register the drone, we’re back to square one.
On the plus side, I guess this registration database could be used in your favour in the case that you lose your drone. If someone finds your drone, they could potentially give the drone reg number (found on the drone) to the CAA and they can the get in contact with you.
It’s a difficult industry to enforce regulations upon so i’m sceptical as to how well this will go but I do believe it’s a step in the right direction.
Like I said, I can’t see anything coming into force anytime soon so if you’re a hobbiest, continue to fly safe and have fun.
Let us know below what you think or what you’d suggest if you had the final say.