Wednesday, 30 May 2018

UK introduces new laws to curb dangerous drone use

The UK is introducing new laws in an effort to combat dangerous drone use, especially near airports. The change in the law comes as the UK continues to see increases year on year of potentially dangerous drone incidents, during 2016 there were 71 reported serious incidents, which rose to 93 in 2017.

The new laws will restrict all drones from flying above 400 feet and within 1 kilometre of airport boundaries. The new laws will also require owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and for drone pilots to take an online safety test to ensure the UK’s skies are safe from irresponsible flyers. These requirements will come into force on 30 November 2019. The CAA and airports will have the power to make exceptions to these restrictions in specific circumstances.

Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister, said, "We are seeing fast growth in the numbers of drones being used, both commercially and for fun. Whilst we want this industry to innovate and grow, we need to protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones in our skies. 
These new laws will help ensure drones are used safely and responsibly."

Chris Woodroofe, Chief Operating Officer, Gatwick Airport, welcomed the news, "We welcome the clarity that today’s announcement provides as it leaves no doubt that anyone flying a drone must stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields. Drones open up some exciting possibilities but must be used responsibly. These clear regulations, combined with new surveillance technology, will help the police apprehend and prosecute anyone endangering the travelling public."

However, the British Airline Pilots Association don't think the new regulations go far enough, as the proposed new laws include limited restrictions that will allow drones to be flown up to 400ft just 1km from an airport boundary. BALPA says that this is a very dangerous situation as aircraft will already be lower than this at this point on approach to an airport, so the new regulations must go further to avoid potential collisions.

BALPA Flight Safety Specialist, Steve Landells, said, “We’re pleased the Government is taking near-misses seriously and making changes to the law, but it is crucial that these go further to avoid a potential catastrophe."

“We hoped we would see something similar to the regulations introduced in Australia, which state that unmanned operations must not be flown within 3 nautical miles (around 5.5km) of an airfield. Safety in the UK is no less important than in Australia."

“BALPA is not anti-drone and we understand the commercial considerations in not making laws too restrictive, but a hobbyist drone has no business being flown near an airport and allowing this to happen increases the risk of a catastrophic collision.”

In addition to these measures a draft Drones Bill will be published this summer, which will give police more tailored powers to intervene on the spot if drones are being used inappropriately. Drone operators will also eventually be required to use apps – so they can access the information needed to make sure any planned flight can be made safely and legally.

Drone users who flout the new height and airport boundary restrictions could be charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft. This could result in an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both while users who fail to register or sit the competency tests could face fines of up to £1,000.

The new laws are being made via an amendment to the Air Navigation Order 2016.
There has been a year on year increase in drone incidents with 71 in 2016 rising to 93 in 2017.

A recently released PwC report highlighted that the uptake of drones could be worth up to £41.7 billion to the UK GDP by 2030.