New UK Drone Legislation – Explained

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As I’m sure you’re well aware by now, The Government recently announced a refresh of the laws governing the flying of drones in the United Kingdom, following some recent… mishaps.
We’ve collated a list of the new laws coming into effect on 30th November 2019, as well as a recap of the existing laws, to make sure you can have confidence in remaining a responsible drone user.

New Drone Laws Coming into Effect 30th November 2019

Owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more will be required to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and drone pilots will be required to take an online safety test – failure to comply with these rules can lead to a fine of £1,000.

Fixed penalty notices (FPNs) will be attached to the below offences:

  • Not producing registration documentation, and/or proof of registration for drones over 250g, at the request of a police constable.
  • Not producing evidence of any other relevant permissions required by legislation; for example, your licence if you are a commercial drone operator.
  • Not complying with a police officer when instructed to land a drone.
  • Flying a drone without a valid acknowledgement of competency, or failure to provide evidence of meeting this competency requirement when requested.

Luckily these FPN’s are capped at £100, but make sure you’re clued up on the law to avoid some nasty charges.

The Government is also amending the current flight restriction zone for SUA’s (Small Unmanned Aircraft). The new restriction zone will include rectangular extensions from the end of runways, measuring 5km long by 1km wide – to better protect take-off and landing paths.
The diagram below shows what the new restriction zone will look like, this will apply to all drones weighing more than 250g.

Drone Restriction Zone

 

There has also been a clarification of terms describing drone users, more specifically – drone operators and remote pilots. A drone operator is a person or organisation who has management of the drone but may not be directly controlling the flight. There is no requirement for the operator to be present during the drone flight, but they may still liable if their drone is used to break the law.

Drone operators may only allow their drones to be flown once they have registered them with the CAA. Furthermore, they must only allow their drone to be flown by a remote pilot who has been issued with an acknowledgement of competency (passed the online test).

On the other hand, a remote pilot is a person who operates the flight of the drone by manual use of the controls, or when the drone is flying automatically, monitors its course. As well as passing an online competency test, the remote pilot must adhere to all drone laws concerning flight of the craft, ensure that the operator has a valid certificate of registration and that the operator’s registration number is affixed onto the drone.

Current UK Drone Laws

The following offences can lead to a 5 year prison sentence, an unlimited fine, or both:

  • A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft.
  • A person must not cause or permit an aircraft to endanger person or property.

The following could lead to a fine of £2,500:

  • Drone pilots must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with their drone to ensure the above.
  • Drone pilots may not fly further than 1640ft/500m horizontal distance from themselves.
  • Drone pilots may not fly above 400 feet or within airport restriction zones.

If the drone is equipped with a camera, the following offences can lead to a fine of £2,500:

  • It must not be flown within 50m of persons or buildings.
  • It must also not be flown within 150m of densely populated areas.

If you’d like to carry out some of your own reading on the new updates, you can view the changes on The Government website.

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