Even though drones have rapidly increased in popularity the laws relating to the flying of unmanned aircraft have not responded quickly to keep up.
The disruption at Gatwick today means drone law will almost certainly be revised in future to increase the penalties for bad actors; however what are the rules now and what should you be aware of when flying?
At the moment anyone can fly a drone if it weighs less than 20kgs and they are not using it for commercial purposes.
However, there are rules created by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which must be adhered to when using unmanned aircraft. These were updated this year after near misses with aircraft.
Updates to Drone Law in 2019
From 30th November 2019, all drones above 250g will have to be registered with the CAA.
Before you are allowed to fly a drone over 250g a pilot will have to pass an online test and anyone found to be flying without registering will face a fine of up to £1,000.
Additionally, 250g+ drones will be banned from flying above 400ft for line-of-sight craft and 1000ft for First-Person-View craft.
Importantly, the CAA will ban anyone flying with 1km of an airport or other listed no-fly-zone.
Drone Guidance and Privacy Laws
As well as the new legal requirements the CAA has also issued new guidance for drones being kept clear of livestock and other animals. This follows incidents of horses being spooked by drones.
There are a number of other laws that come into play when flying drones fitted with recording equipment.
In principle, a drone with a camera is subject to the Data Protection Act and other privacy laws; though this has yet to be tested in the courts.
Guidance currently prohibits drones from being flown within 50 meters of buildings, people, vehicles and 150 meters of large public gatherings (like sporting events or gigs).
Five Simple Drone Rules to Remember
You can use the following mnemonic to remember the basics.
- Don’t fly near airports or airfields
- Remember to stay below 120m (400ft) and at least 50m (150ft) away from people
- Observe your drone at all times
- Never fly near aircraft
- Enjoy responsibly
Always remember to be aware of your surrondings and respectful of others when flying.