Government regulates drone usage in the UK with registration and safety awareness testing

Lucy White
Drone in Flight
Owners of drones weighing 250g and more must register details of their device (Source: Getty)

The drones are coming – but their use will now be regulated, as the government announced this morning that devices must now be registered and users will have to sit safety awareness tests.

After running a consultation from December to March, the government today published a response outlining plans to make owners of drones weighing 250g and more register details of their device.

Read more: Ready for take off? MPs are probing the potential of commercial drones (and the risks) in a fresh inquiry by the transport select committee

Meanwhile, a user test will aim to ensure owners understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations.

“The UK is at the forefront of an exciting and fast growing drones market and it is important we make the most of this emerging global sector,” said aviation minister Lord Callanan.

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.

But like all technology, drones too can be misused. By registering drones and introducing safety awareness tests to educate users, we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.

The government also said it plans to bring forward and expand the use of “geo-fencing”, a technology which acts as an invisible shield around buildings or sensitive areas such as prisons or airports.

This works by programming drones to hover at the edge of certain zones. Some manufacturers already have this feature locked in, but the government aims to reinforce its practice.

Read more: Gatwick Airport runway closed and flight diverted after suspected drone causes disruption

The consultation summary also added that “options to increase penalties when the law is broken” were being explored.

In the consultation, bodies such as the Department for Transport, the British Airline Pilots Association and the Military Aviation Authority revealed evidence that drones weighing 400g could damage the windscreens of helicopters in particular.

Airliner windscreens were found to be much more resistant, as it would take a drone of around 2kg to cause critical damage and only if the aeroplane was flying at high speed.

Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority launched a new “drone code” with six principles:

Always keep your drone in sight

Stay below 400ft (120m) to comply with the drone code

Every time you fly your drone you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions

Keep the right distance from people and property

You are responsible for each flight

Stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields

Read more: The sky is the limit! EE reveals drone air masts that will save the day when disaster strikes

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