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Drones and the law

Drones are becoming cheaper and more popular. This is not surprising, as many people would find being of control of real rather than virtual aircraft so exciting. It is so much better than a video game in many ways! And who would not want to show your own birds-eye view footage to the world?

Unfortunately, drones also present problems, such as being hazards to other aircraft and being a tool to violet other people's privacy. Therefore many countries began regulating the use of personal drones by introducing a number of laws. Here, we will provide the summary of these laws in the UK, so if you don't want you new toy confiscated, read on.


What you can and can't do

Onward to the boring facts.

As an amateur, you cannot fly a drone that weighs more than 20 kilograms. You have to be at least 50 metres away from the nearest member of the public, vehicle or a building. The distance has to increase to 150 metres if there is a densely populated area or a crowd of people nearby.The operator must keep visual contact with the drone at all times.

A drone is not allowed to raise above 400 feet and should not be operated close to air traffic areas. Most drones, like this one, already have in-built elevation restrictors and GPS with no-fly zones recognition; however cheaper models from less-known brands may not have these. And, of-course, you can't pretend that your drone is a Lancaster bomber by dropping objects from it.

As well as all of the above, the Civil Aviation Authority is proposing to introduce compulsory registration of all private drones. However, if this will ever happen, it is unlikely to be any time soon.


Why these rules exist

One of the most well-known incidents in the UK was near-miss near Heathrow Airport. A drone got almost sucked into an engine of a landing plane with potentially disastrous consequences.

The reasons why you can't fly drones close to people or properly are not just motivated by fear of accidents and peoples' privacy. Drones are known to have been used by burglars to identify buildings with weak security. Other potential malicious uses are only limited by imagination, so breaking the minimum distance rule can be expected to be treated as more serious offence than most people think.

Prosecution for breaking the rules is far from being a remote possibility. A man in Cumbria got heavily fined when his drone almost hit a bridge and entered a no-fly zone over a submarine testing facility. This was despite his claims that control of the drone has been lost.


What people actually do

So, with the drone rules getting stricter and the risk of conviction going up, do people always follow these rules? A casual glance at youtube will give you the answer. There are tons of videos filmed by drones in places where they clearly aren't supposed to be flying. Likewise, there are many videos of drone accidents, many of which are caused by irresponsible use.

So, whether you want to stick to the rules is up to you. Just make sure that you know what these rules are to avoid any disappointment.



Written by

Posted on 26 Aug 2015



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