Anyone who buys a drone in the UK may have to register it and take a safety test under new measures to prevent potential collisions with passenger jets. Measures proposed by ministers also include criminal liability for anyone who flies a drone in “no-fly zones” surrounding airports and prisons, and an increase in fines, reported Reuters. Ministers also want to make drones electronically identifiable on the ground, in order to make it easier for police to track devices to their owners, Reuters said.
According to the Guardian, drone popularity has led to a spike in the number of near-misses with passenger jets, with aviation chiefs receiving reports of 56 near-miss incidents in the 10 months to October – up from 29 in all of the previous year and six in 2014. Current regulations by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) require drones to be kept in line of sight and flown no higher than 120 meters. They also forbid any drone with a camera from flying within 50 meters of buildings, vehicles, people or over large crowds, and anyone using a drone for commercial purposes has to register it with the CAA. But the new plans would mean casual users would also have to register their drones – if they weigh more than 250g – and take a test similar to the driving theory test.
Tim Johnson, the policy director at the CAA, said: “Our priority is the safe operation of drones and we cannot underestimate the importance of understanding how to use drones safely and responsibly. Drones have significant potential to drive benefits across a range of sectors from farming to emergency response, healthcare to logistics. We encourage anyone with an interest in this area to respond to the government’s consultation.”
Steve Landells, flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), said: “We need to understand more about the threat drones pose, and Balpa is working with the government and regulators to ensure this is an issue that’s being taken seriously in the corridors of power. Drones are here to stay and, as this technology develops and becomes more important in the aviation world, it is vital they are integrated into the airspace in a safe and sensible manner. Pilots are concerned about the growing number of near-misses and the potential for catastrophe should a collision occur. At the same time, Balpa believes drone operators, especially hobbyists, need to be made aware of the potential dangers of irresponsible flying. We support the Department for Transport in pressing for better education, compulsory registration and high-profile prosecution for careless operators.”