UK to tighten drone rules after near-misses and fear of mid-air disasters

Pilots have reported numerous close calls in the past year in Britain

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 July, 2017, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 July, 2017, 10:36pm

British officials have announced plans to further regulate drone use in a bid to prevent accidents and threats to commercial ­aviation.

The new rules will require drones that weigh 226.79 grams or more to be registered and users will have to pass a safety awareness exam.

The tougher regulations were prompted by concerns about mid-air collisions between drones and aircrafts and the risk of a major disaster. Pilots have reported numerous near-misses in the past year in Britain.

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Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones
Aviation Minister Martin ­Callanan

Citing safety concerns, London’s Gatwick Airport briefly closed its runway earlier this month when a drone was spotted in the area and several planes had to be diverted.

The British Airline Pilots Association said independent tests showed even a small drone could cause severe damage to a helicopter or an airline windscreen.

The union’s general secretary, Brian Strutton, said pilots “have been warning about the rise in the number of cases of drones being flown irresponsibly close to aircraft and airports for some time”.

He said a new report “clearly shows that readily available drones which can be flown by anyone can shatter or go straight through an aircraft windshield or shatter a helicopter rotor. And those impacts would have catastrophic consequences”.

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British police have also reported a sharp rise in complaints from the public about intrusive drone use. Aviation Minister Martin ­Callanan said while drones continue to provide many useful services, the new regulations need to prevent the technology from being misused.

“Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones,” he said. The new rules will make it easier for the government to track drones that have been flown in an risky manner or that infringed on protected airspace. Details of the registration plan have not yet been worked out.