UK drone laws are relatively new and are having to adapt to the greater use of unmanned aircraft. Industry experts predict that the number of drones in use in the UK will soar over the next twenty years. As well as hobby flyers, commercial drone operators will be working for a broad range of industries.
In May 2018 the Government announced a change to the UK Air Navigation Order of 2016, which means a new set of UK drone laws. Some parts of this came into force on 30 July 2018 with others following in November 2019.
The changes applicable now include –
- An operating height restriction of 400 feet for drones. This is one of the UK drone laws that has caused a lot of confusion in the past, as there was debate around whether it applied from the ground level or sea level. If you take off from a hill that’s 500 feet above sea level, the new rule clarifies that you can fly 400 feet upwards.
- New restrictions on use of drones near aerodromes. These apply to aircraft weighing 7kg or less. Use of drones near airports is of course one of the major safety concerns, and this new law is designed to reduce the risk of accidents with passenger carrying aircraft. Public perception of drones isn’t good, and scare stories about near-misses with airliners don’t help. The popular press have fuelled fears in some cases so this restriction has been welcomed.
- Revisions to some of the terminology uses in drone regulations. The previous term ‘person in charge’ is replaced with ‘SUA operator’ and ‘remote pilot.’ Other changes are clarifications and corrections of previous errors on the Air Navigation Order 2016
Changes coming to UK drone laws in November 2019 will mean that owners of aircraft weighing over 250 grams will have to register it with the CAA. Even hobby pilots will have to take a test to prove they are aware of the hazards of flying drones and the laws governing their use. Tests have only been applicable to commercial drone pilots up until now.