Operating a drone in the UK just got a little tougher, and safer.
On Saturday, the UK government posted new rules governing the use of drones weighing over 250 grams (about half a pound), with input from the Department for Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the Military Aviation Authority.
The guidelines state that drone users will have to register their devices and undergo safety awareness testing to ensure that they’re aware of UK security, privacy, and safety rules.
Part of the impetus for the new guidelines is linked to a recent study by the collective agencies that found that drones weighing nearly one pound (400 grams) might cause damage to the windshield of a helicopter, an airborne vehicle that frequently occupies the same low altitude space as many drones in large city areas.
“By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions.”
“Like all technology, drones too can be misused,” said Aviation Minister Lord Callanan in a statement on the government’s website. “By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”
In addition to the new rules, drone users in the UK are also required to follow the country’s “drone code,” which calls for always keeping your drone in sight, below 400 feet, keeping a reasonable distance from people and property, and — most importantly — keeping your drone far away from airports.
Amateur drones flying dangerously close to airports while airplanes are in flight have become a matter for concern in recent years, with several near-misses recorded in the UK and other countries. As recently as three weeks ago, a drone caused disruptions at Gatwick Airport, leading to flights from British Airways and EasyJet being diverted. And in November of 2016, an Airbus A320 plane approaching Heathrow airport reported seeing a drone at 10,000 feet just 98 feet away from the aircraft.
Whether the new drone rules will help in such cases remains to be seen, but UK officials are trying to make the new process easier by working on creating an easy to use website and app for drone registration.