The UK government announced last week that drones need to be registered and users may have to undergo safety awareness tests soon.
Accountability and Responsibly
New government rules mean that drones weighing 250 grams and above now need to be registered online. Owners of these drones will also have to take safety awareness tests to determine their knowledge of UK safety, security, and privacy regulations. The government hopes that these new rules will help to develop accountability among drone owners and encourage them to act responsibly.
The new rules have been introduced after numerous near-miss drone and aircraft incidents (many near airports) which have endangered life and caused major disruption. For example, a drone being flown dangerously close to Gatwick airport earlier this month caused four Easyjet and one British Airways flights to be diverted and Airprox figures show that there were 70 such incidents last year, and 33 so far in this year.
According to research conducted by DfT, British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA), and the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), drones could possibly damage the windscreens of helicopters. The study also found, however, that airplane windscreens would need a heavy drone of around 2kg, flying at a high speed, to inflict any real damage.
Parliamentary Approval May Be Needed
The Department for Transport (DfT) wants to introduce the new rules as soon as possible so that it can explore how to implement it in the coming months. The rules being drafted will include rules for existing and new drones, but Parliamentary approval may be needed to bring the rules into force.
As well as problems with drones being flown near airports, there is also the well-documented problem of drones being used to deliver drugs and other contraband to prisoners in UK jails.
Geo-fencing is one viable way for the government to keep drones away from restricted areas such as prisons and airports. Geo-fencing technology can be built into the drones so that the government can take their coordinates via GPS, and with a pre-defined boundary already programmed, stop them from flying into prohibited areas.
While some drone makers have already pre-programmed their drones to not fly in restricted areas, the government wants to be doubly sure that it is the case.
The Need for Regulations
Drones have become an important tool in many commercial and public safety settings, such as in transport infrastructure inspection, film and television, and for use by the police and fire service in helping to save lives. These valuable uses will need to be considered in the new proposed regulations, which are designed to prioritise public protection while maximising the drones’ full potential, according to UK Aviation Minister from the Department for Transport, Lord Callanan.
The potential for misuse is clear however , and many have welcomed this move to have drones registered, and to conduct safety awareness tests to educate users.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Drones are part of a new industry where the technology and products have been developing before the law has had an opportunity to catch up. Drones clearly have many productive, value-adding, and innovative business uses, and they have been tested and tipped for wider use in the future by e.g. Amazon for parcel deliveries. A move towards autonomous vehicles and new transport technologies means that drones currently have a bright future when used responsibly and professionally. The fact that drones are widely and easily available (with minimal restrictions) to individuals as well as companies, as shown by the many aircraft near misses, indicates that most people would welcome the introduction of regulations that contribute to public safety. It is important, however, that any new rules take account of the rights of the majority of responsible drone users, and don’t restrict the commercial potential of drones.