All drones in the UK will be restricted come July 30, 2018, from flying any higher than 400 feet (about 120 metres) and no closer than 1 kilometre to any airport boundary in new laws announced by the Department of Transport yesterday.
Incidents involving aircraft and drones have been rising year after year according to the DoT, which has caused considerable concern.
The DoT recognises that drones are now used in many commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the economic benefits associated with the use of drones. Up to 50% savings in costs are achieved when using drones for inspection instead of humans and helicopters at at Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station, the department cites as an example.
As drones are becoming more and more a part of everyday life, the measures have been taken to ensure the safety of pilots and passengers.
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister says, “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. - @transportgovuk Click To Tweet
With substantial increases in commercial drone permissions issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 2017 (a year on year growth of 52%), and a new report by PwC asserting an economic boost for the UK by drones of £42 billion by 2030, the new laws will help nurture public trust in the safety of drones both publicly and in business.
Under the new laws (made via an amendment to the Air Navigation Order 2016), owners of drones weighing over 250 grams must register with UK’s CAA as well as take an online safety test.
Drone pilots who do not comply with the new regulations, which come into effect at the end of November 2019, may end up with charges of “recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft.” This could mean unlimited fines, or up to 5 years in prison or in cases of flagrant disregard – both. Failure to sit the safety test risks fines of up to £1,000.
Chris Woodroofe, Chief Operating Officer, Gatwick Airport welcomes the announcement, saying, “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.”
Consumer drone manufacturing giant DJI have also announced their support of the new laws.
“The Department for Transport’s updates to the regulatory framework strike a sensible balance between protecting public safety and bringing the benefits of drone technology to British businesses and the public at large,” said Christian Struwe, Head of Public Policy Europe at DJI.
“The vast majority of drone pilots fly safely and responsibly, and governments, aviation authorities and drone manufacturers agree we need to work together to ensure all drone pilots know basic safety rules. We are therefore particularly pleased about the Department for Transport’s commitment to accessible online testing as a way of helping drone users to comply with the law.”
In order that pilots may have easy access to information needed to comply with the laws and plan safe and legal flight paths, an app will be made available.
Members of model aircraft associations, that have long-standing safety cultures, may be assured that the CAA is working to ensure their activities are not impeded by the new laws.
The DoT have also released a video explaining the reason for the new laws to hobby drone pilots.