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UK Drone Laws: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Drones are taking over the world – whether you like it or not. Not only are they absolutely everywhere, they’re also vastly improving the way many different industries work – not least aerial photography, where the wonders of the world or scenes of devastation can be shown from a totally new perspective – an unrivalled bird’s eye view.

It’s not just commercially that drones have become increasingly popular though. Personal drones have also seen a tremendous uplift. High street retailer Maplin sold 41,000 drones in 2016 – an increase of more than 50% over the previous year.

Yet while the passion for drones increases, the laws on where you can and cannot fly a drone are getting stricter all the time. And with Amazon completing their first commercial drone delivery in the UK in December, they are only going to get firmer.


Why are the laws getting tougher?

  1. Law Breakers

Nigel Wilson from Nottingham broke nine aviation laws by flying his drone over famous London landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. He became one of the first ever drone pilots to be prosecuted for not following strict CAA rules and regulations and was fined £1,800.

Nigel wasn’t intentionally breaking the law, but drones have been elsewhere. They are now being used frequently by criminals to smuggle illegal contraband into prisons; such as drugs and mobile phones. Much easier and less painful than the old-fashioned way, that’s for sure!

  1. Plane Spotters

Last year pilots and others in the aviation industry were increasingly concerned about drones colliding with aircrafts. In the UK alone, 64 near-misses were reported between January and November 2016 – more than double the number recorded in 2015. Just a few reasons why the government want to bring in increased laws.


Not All Bad

While a small minority of cases will need new laws to regulate and keep all pilots protected, it’s not all doom and gloom. As mentioned, drones have revolutionised modern photography and videography by offering previously impossible angles.

They’ve provided a much better view of nature and even helped researchers learn more about schools of whales and other wildlife.

Not only are drones helping to preserve wildlife, but also save human lives as well. Drones have been transporting life-saving blood and other medical supplies for a while now over in Rwanda and Tanzania.


Rules & Regulations

Jonathan Nicholson from the Civil Aviation Authority explained the new rules: “They’re really simple – a lot of it is based on common sense. Don’t fly your drones above 400ft – you need to keep it in sight. Don’t fly it near airports, airfields or aircraft! And stay 50m away from people who aren’t under your control.”

Nicholson continued: “When drones arrived, we thought they’d be used for commercial filming, agricultural surveys and such. It’s common sense again! To get that commercial license, you need to do certain things. For something like your little toy that fits in the palm of your hand – that’s not even going to hurt my cat.”

“If you’re really stupid, the police are very active on drones now. You could get caught, if you get found guilty, you could go to prison for five years.”

“We want people to enjoy their drones. Drones have a fantastic future – we’re not a million miles away from drones doing things like moving human organ transplants from hospital to hospital. We need those things to happen because they will benefit everyone, but we need to make sure that being stupid doesn’t stop those things. Just use your common sense and follow the drone code!”


CAA Drone Code

The CAA’s drone code, which was updated in November, launched an easy way to remember the most important parts of it spelling D.R.O.N.E:

1) Don’t fly near airports or airfields

2) Remember to stay below 120m (400ft) and at least 50m (150ft) away from buildings and people

3) Observe your drone at all times

4) Never fly near aircraft

5) Enjoy responsibly


Whatever your profession and drone of choice, if you’re flying a drone for commercial use, you need specialist commercial drone insurance in order to comply with CAA regulations. Get an instant quote now.

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