Yesterday (30 May 2018) the Department for Transport (DfT) announced new drone laws will come into effect on 30 July 2018. All drones will be restricted to fly at a maximum height of 400ft (120m) and not within 1km of aerodromes. This will apply to drones of any weight or size flying within UK airspace and individual airports can make exceptions for any drone pilot following the appropriate channels i.e. requesting special permission via Air Traffic Control.
On 30 November 2019, further laws will come into force that require any drone weighing 250g or more to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The owner of the drone will also need to register and will be required to pass an online safety test before they are permitted to take to the skies. Some popular consumer drones that fall within the parameters of this new law include the DJI Spark, Mavic Air, Mavic Pro Series, Phantom 2/3/4 Series; Yuneec Breeze; Parrot Bebop 2 and GoPro Karma.
These regulation changes are part of an ongoing government strategy to safely integrate drones into UK airspace, allowing us to maximise their potential and further benefit the economy. Currently, recreational drone pilots (or hobbyists) are only required to follow the Drone Code, which does advise pilots not to fly over 400ft or near to airports or airfields. However, until now there has been little in place to legally enforce these rules for recreational use and we have seen a growing number of reported incidents involving drones and manned aircraft.
As Chris Woodroofe, Chief Operating Office at Gatwick Airport explained yesterday, “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.”
It is unclear just yet who will facilitate the new registration and online testing process, but it will most likely be managed by the CAA. The new laws will be created with an amendment to the Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2016 and come with strict penalties for anyone proven to be disregarding the law. According to the official DfT press release:
Additionally, a draft of the new Drones Bill is due to be published during the summer, which will grant UK police with additional powers when it comes to protecting the public from unsafe drone piloting. Police officers will likely be able to intervene by confiscating drone hardware from any uncooperative drone pilot not complying with UK law, signifying a shift in the government’s stance on recreational drone safety.
It should also be highlighted that any drone pilot flying for commercial purposes without the correct permissions, can also be prosecuted in line with UK legislation. To undertake paid drone work or “jobs” you must ensure you have a valid Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) granted by the CAA. At Uplift, we offer three CAA-approved training courses that lead to the student gaining their PfCO; Advanced PfCO, Fast Track PfCO and Pilot’s PfCO.
To summarise, we are looking forward to the new legislation coming into play over the next 18 months and the positive impact this will have on the progression of the UK’s drone industry and public safety alike.