Following an announcement in May 2018, new drone laws are on the way in the UK. There is a lot of confusion in the UK around the ownership and use of drones, and the announcement of new drone laws coincides with a report by PWC predicting massive growth in their use.
A commonly asked question is do I need a drone licence? The answer to this will remain no after the new laws are introduced, but owners of drones weighing more than 250g will have to register their aircraft. The idea behind this is to encourage greater responsibility, and it will also make it easier to trace the owner of a drone involved in an accident or breaking the law.
Unfortunately the press often take a negative view of drones, and reports of near misses with aircraft are the typical stories printed. These incidents generally relate to new drone owners and children rather than professional drone pilots. For example, a schoolboy in Cornwall recently flew his drone close to a Coastguard helicopter and hit the headlines as a result.
If a pilot wants to make money with a drone he will still have to follow the current process of obtain a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations). This makes an operator a CAA approved drone pilot, and means he can carry out drone work for profit and reward. Commercial drone operators for hire must fly to strict safety rules, or they risk losing their CAA approval as well as fines and other punishments.
The new drone laws clarify protocols for flying near airports. From 30th July 2018 a drone pilot won’t be able to fly within a kilometre of airport boundaries. Flouting this could land a drone operator a five year prison sentence. The CAA and airports will be able to make exceptions to this rule for approved drone pilots working with them.