Drones are becoming increasingly popular, used to take stunning photos and fly through the skies. However, not everyone is using drones as intended, with the past year seeing a rise of 352% in complaints to police about drone use. Although partly due to suspicion or paranoia, the fear of drones isn’t entirely unwarranted with more drones used in crime.
All of London’s public parks had already banned the use of drones over fears about terrorism before the introduction of new drone laws. The drone laws enforced in July 2018 promised to make the skies safer for planes and the passengers they carry. But have the new drone laws made Aviation safer?
New Drone Laws
The new laws restrict drones from flying above 400 feet, or within one kilometre of an airport. They come in the wake of almost a hundred near-misses (or collisions) between drones and commercial planes in 2017.
The new drone laws are due to be supplemented in November 2019 with updated laws requiring owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority. Drone pilots who are found to break these laws could be fined or face up to five years in prison. The CAA is keen to impress upon the drone community and the wider public that drones are in fact aircraft, not toys.
Recent reports reveal that 77% of the UK are in favour of stricter laws around drones, which have been used to drop contraband into prisons and spy on unknowing civilians. Surprisingly, 75% of drone users agree that more laws are necessary.
What Do the New Drone Laws Mean?
Protecting our airports and planes from drones is a welcome move, as they can cause damage to planes or confuse pilots and airport staff. Any unknown factor in airports is immediately labelled as a hazard, or worse a weapon, so any legislation that lessens that risk will help maintain order in the day-to-day running of the UK’s airports.
The laws also restrict drones from flying within 50 metres of people and buildings and within 150 metres of groups of people. Drone restrictions ensure the physical safety of people against drone collisions or crashes, which can cause substantial damage given the weight of the drones and the speed at which they can travel.
The Dronecode is a simple set of rules designed to promote safe and responsible use of drones:
- Don't fly near airports or airfields (it is against the law to fly your drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary)
- Remember to stay below 400ft (120m) and at least 150ft (50m) away from buildings and people
- Observe your drone at all times
- Never fly near aircraft
- Enjoy responsibly
Having exploded in popularity over the last few years, drones have become increasingly common, and the drone industry is predicted to be worth £42 billion to the UK economy by 2030. The government has plans in motion to utilise drones further for infrastructure projects like railway inspection, or medical services like deliveries of blood. Drones are also used to inspect nuclear reactors, able to go into more difficult or dangerous areas than humans would be able to.
All drone operators looking to use them for commercial use must register with the CAA or face charges.
As attitudes towards drones change, so too will the surrounding laws. Most drone pilots are in favour of more laws, which will help to legitimise the hobby and keep people safe from any potential abuse of this new technology.
Learn more about the future of Aeronautics, or how the Aviation industry is expected to grow over the next decade.