You have to admit that a drone is a neat bit of kit. In recent years they have become one of the best-selling pieces of electronic equipment in the high street. And if you got one for Christmas, you need to know the law before you take to the sky.
Drones with good quality cameras are quite affordable now. With 4K video resolution, or more, the footage you can obtain from these devices is quite breath-taking. But with the increase in incidents involving drones, it comes as no surprise that new laws are being introduced all the time. Last summer, in the UK, new laws were introduced to “improve accountability and encourage owners to act responsibly”.
Unfortunately, if you live in or near an urban area, you are going to find that flying your drone isn’t so easy. And this is why:
1. You must always keep your drone in your line of sight. This is obvious if you want to avoid flying your drone into an obstacle. Although most modern drones have sensors to avoid just that.
2. You must fly below a height of 400ft or 120m to avoid manned aircraft.
3. You need to keep your drone 150ft or 50m away from people and properties, in all directions. That distance is about the length of 12 average-sized family hatchbacks parked in a line. In addition, you have to keep it 500ft or 150m away from crowds or built-up areas.
4. Stay away from airports, heliports and airfields. You should also be aware of flight paths on the approach to such places. Causing danger to the safety of aircraft is a criminal offence punishable with a period of up to 5 years in prison.
The legal responsibility lies entirely with you.
At the moment, you only need to register your drone if you use it for pleasure and it weighs more than 20kg. Any drone used for commercial purposes must be registered. However, the government has plans to introduce a new registration scheme which will require any drone weighing more than 250g to be registered.
Now all this sounds terrible and almost like it is impossible to enjoy your drone. To help you get the most out of it, download Drone Assist. It’s an app which provides users with an interactive map of airspace used by commercial traffic and other land-based hazards. You can also share your own flight location with other app users.
The key word in all of this is flying responsibly. You don’t want to lose your drone, nor do you want it to drop on someone’s head.