In a bid to stop the increasing number of cases of drone misuse, the UK government has announced its plans to impose a drone registration policy.
Aside from that, owners will be required to take a safety awareness test that they must pass in order to operate their drones.
The drone safety awareness test will force potential flyers “to prove that they understand UK safety, security, and privacy regulations,” according to the UK Department of Transport.#UK to slap irresponsible drone flyers with #droneregistration policy!Click To Tweet
Drone Near-Misses and Misuse
On July 18th last year, it was reported by the Civil Aviation Authority‘s UK Airprox Board (UKAB) that a drone narrowly avoided crashing into a passenger plane that was flying near The Shard.
The aircraft, an Airbus 320 which was carrying 165 passengers at that time, was making its final approach to Heathrow over Central London when it encountered the drone. The drone which was described as black and around 50cm wide was said to be flying near the right flight deck window.
The report also said that the plane was flying at an altitude of 4,900 feet near The Shard–the tallest building in Western Europe.
UKAB ruled out the incident as a near-miss, citing that the “drone operator should not have been flying in that location at that altitude.”
Alarming reports of near collisions and apparent misuse of these flying devices forced the government to come up with the drone registration policy.
Current research studies suggest that a drone weighing 2kg has the potential to smash plane windshields while drones weighing 400g are capable of shattering helicopter rotors.
In 2016 alone, it was reported that there had been 58 incidents of drone near misses. In the past four months of this year, UKAB already reported 22 incidents involving near-collisions between commercial airplanes and possible drones.
According to Aviation Minister Lord Martin Callanan, the drone registration will be imposed to protect the public while maximizing the full potential of drones.
“Increasingly, drones are proving vital for inspecting transport infrastructure for repair or aiding police and fire services in search and rescue operations, even helping to save lives.
But like all technology, drones too can be misused. By registering drones and introducing safety awareness tests to educate users, we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public,” Callanan said.
However, some experts believe that the registration policy might provoke protests and oppositions from the public.
“Registration has its place. I would argue it will focus the mind of the flyer – but I don’t think you can say it’s going to be a magic solution,” said Dr. Alan McKenna, a professor of Law at the University of Kent.
“There will be people who will simply not be on the system, that’s inevitable,” he further added.
It will be remembered that in March of this year, a similar registration policy in the U.S. was challenged in court, resulting in the rule being applicable only to commercial flyers.
McKenna also added that issues like how illegal flyers will be identified by the authorities and if personal liability insurance should be deemed as a legal requirement must be considered before implementing the drone registration rule.
However, some commercial drone makers like DJI were in favor of the policy. According to DJI spokesperson Adam Lisberg, the government’s plans sounded like “reasonable common sense.”
“The fact is that there are multiple users of the airspace and the public should have access to the air–we firmly believe that–but you need systems to make sure everybody can do it safely,” he said.
Right now, the UK government has not given any time frame on how the new rule will be enforced citing that “the nuts and bolts still have to be ironed out.”