Calling All Drones!


Source: Public Domain Pictures


In another nanny-state move, the U.K. government has announced that all drone owners with devices over 250 grams will have to register them with the Department of Transport. They will also have to pass a drone safety awareness test to show that they know and understand safety and privacy issues related to using a drone. Now the fun is gone from taking your drone out for a spin on a sunny Sunday afternoon…

But apparently, that isn’t their aim! Aviation Minister Lord Martin Callanan has defended the plan by saying that it was to make sure users don’t accidentally fly into restricted airspace and cause a collision with other aircraft. He also stressed that drones can be incredibly helpful but easily misused.

As evidence, he referred to an incident in April 2017 in which two drones were close enough to an Airbus A320, as it was preparing to land at London’s Heathrow Airport, for officials to say it was a serious collision risk.

Apparently, it’s not enough that some drones are already programmed not to fly in “sensitive areas”. Callanan says that the government just wants to make sure that drones can be used sensibly and effectively, especially in emergency situations. So, it’s all in the name of protecting the public from itself. The plan is in early stages and it is unclear as to when it will be enforced.

A similar plan was proposed in the U.S. but has been put on hold after an appeals court invalidated the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision for a drone register. So, fly, my pretties, fly!

Ireland has had a register in place since 2015. Admittedly, it’s only for heavy-duty ones over a kilo, so a quick spin with your home-made project or your birthday present from your beloved isn’t going to get you slapped with a fine. For anything else, you need to register with the IAA, get written permission, fly no higher than 150m, be within 500m of the operator at all times, and not use cameras. They let an incredibly high number of 25 people do this in the first year of the register, and the annual number of permits issued is more or less the same. And they say they’re not being killjoys…

Do we need all this? It’s a tough one. Not using drones properly really does have the potential to cause accidents. Fatal ones at that. A 400-gram drone can damage a helicopter windscreen and anything above a featherweight device of 60 grams can cause damage to the body of a commercial liner. It would be good to say that we’re all grownups and we don’t need this to not cause an accident. After all, we’ve all got pretty good common sense, right?

But you have to look at the numbers. “Drone incident rates” have been rising. It’s a shame, but in some areas of the U.S., close encounters have become as frequent as winning small change — but at least winning $2 doesn’t put hundreds of lives at risk. Let’s hope at least one place manages to strike a balance between safety and fun! What do you think? Let us know!