19 Mar 2018

UK's New Drone Bill

The UK has proposed new drone legislation to clamp down on the misuse of drones and minimise the risk of accidents between drones and other aircraft.

Michal Beno / Shutterstock.com


The draft Drone Bill, due to be published in spring, will require drone users to register before flying drones that weigh more than 250g. This is similar to what the US law defines as the lowest risk category of drones, those unlikely to cause injury or damage in the event of an accident. 

Incidents involving drones – usually near misses with other aircraft – often come about due to the operator not knowing the Drone Code in full, and not being aware of the responsibilities that come with drone ownership. Part of the Drone Bill will seek to counter that, by making it compulsory for owners of drones weighing more than 250g to first register, then to sit a safety awareness test to educate them about areas such as the no-fly zones around airports and the 400ft height restriction. While the limit on altitude may not be practical to police, the view is that guiding the users through education is likely to reduce negligent flying.

Under the proposed legislation, police will be able to ground and seize drones suspected of being used in criminal activity. One of the main areas of illegal activity facilitated by drones is the smuggling of contraband into prisons, in particular drugs and mobile phones. Small UAVs can scale prison walls, often undetected, whilst also distancing the pilot from the criminal act. The new bill will allow enforcement agencies to protect prisons from such threats by using techniques such as geo-fencing which programmes no-fly zones into drones via GPS.

The UK government is keen to capitalise on the potential of drones, especially their delivery capacity – for both the consumer and medical markets. The proposed regulation is an attempt to ensure that drones are being used safely and properly, to clamp down on potential misuse, whilst not stifling innovation, one of the primary fears and concerns that many have over regulation.


related topics