The consumer and professional drone market in the UK is growing rapidly. With an increasing number of drones in the sky, also comes increased risk and a need for tighter regulation of operators. The UK Government has announced in July of 2017 that registration and pilot training rules will be implemented to make airspace safer for all users.
What Will Change with the New Rules?
Drone pilots who are operating craft of 250 grams and above will now have to register their drones before they can legally be used. Although the complete rules and regulations are yet to be released, registration is likely to include make and model of the drone, weight, purpose of use, and details of the pilot.
To make registration simple and accessible, the government is considering using a purpose built mobile app, along with online registration through a web browser. This is a promising step, because it will limit the administrative costs for the government, and a simple registration process will also ensure high levels of compliance from drone owners.
One of the reasons for the implementation of new rules is that studies have found that low flying drones pose a risk to helicopters. The Department for Transport, the Military Aviation Authority, and the British Airline Pilots Association, produced a combined summary report that helicopters were at high risk of receiving windscreen damage when colliding with a drone. UAVs as light as 400 grams can cause significant damage to helicopters. Airliners are more resistant, and it would take a drone weighing at least two kilogrammes to cause serious damage to an airliner windscreen when traveling at speed. Drones could also cause serious damage when colliding with rotors or jet turbines.
Registration of drones is just one aspect of the new rules, and in addition to this, pilots will need to pass safety and competency tests to prove that they can be responsible in all situations. The number of drone flight and safety training school in the UK is increasing, and it is expected that enrolment numbers for short courses will be increased. This will not only provide a boost to the training industry, but it will ensure that the drones in will be operated by more aware and more capable pilots.
The UK is a Leader in both Commercial and Private Drone Use
The worldwide drone industry is worth over £100 billion, and a significant amount of growth and revenue originates from the UK. The commercial market is particularly healthy, and the government wants to ensure an environment where entrepreneurs and businesses can operate safely and profitably. The government has continued to work closely with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure that future legislation is relevant, and that it addresses the needs of the wider aviation community.
When speaking about the most recent developments, UK Aviation Minister Lord Callanan said that “Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones. Increasingly, drones are proving vital for inspecting transport infrastructure for repair or aiding police and fire services in search and rescue operations, even helping to save lives.”
He also added that “By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”
The latest rules continue to build on a safety-centric approach taken by the government and the Civil Aviation Authority. Last year, the CAA released the drone code, a guideline for all drone pilots that outlined the rules regarding when and where drones can be used. Modern drones use special programming that limits operation to safe areas and conditions.