In recent month’s I’ve seen an increasing number of articles about draconian rules stopping people from flying drones in the UK.
In case you don’t those who don’t know, flying drones as a hobby without a licence is totally legal in the UK. But you do need to follow certain rules (see the drone code for more details). One of those rules is around keeping distance from “property” and this is the “loophole” that is leading some to impose more stringent regulations than is necessary. The interpretation by some is that “property” means everything including fields and lakes. I’m aware of at least one case (north sumerset) of a county council banning unlicensed flight over any council land.
As a drone enthusiast, I find it disheartening to see my pastime banned, one location at a time.
Why are we seeing these changes now?
Drones are a new. Thirty years ago, remote control aircraft were the preserve of dedicated enthusiasts. And they were rubbish. New technology, mostly designed as mobile phone technology, has suddenly enabled these things called “drones” which are really really cool to
play with fly responsibly.
So as you’d expect more and more responsible, law abiding people are buying and carefully flying them in a way that doesn’t cause a nuance. Oh and reckless stupid people also buy them.
Basically the reckless ones are spoiling it for everyone.
Why do places want me to have a licence? The law says I don’t need one.
The fact is stupid people cause a real nuance with UAVs of all kinds and in some cases cause damage and injury. “Property” owners have a duty of care to ensure it is safe for everyone, even trespassers. So if a property owner gives a drone pilot permission to fly they are potentially liable. For most the only sensible way to remove this liability is to show they have taken precautions to ensure it’s safe before they give permission.
Here’s the catch: They’re not qualified to know it’s safe.
The only thing they can do is look to the official qualifications and accreditation. That is, their only option is to ask for a licence and refuse permission if you don’t have one.
What can enthusiasts do about this?
I don’t believe we are going to get a change in these rules. This restriction is only going to become more common. Arguing with politicians and bureaucrats about it is unlikely to get much progress, but please do feel free to try.
Fun fact: The CAA don’t actually do the accreditation themselves. Instead it gives approval to assessment organisations (NQEs).
The perceived problem with licencing is the cost and effort involved in getting a licence. What if we could take that away and make it simpler and cheaper? With the number of enthusiasts growing, at the very least, group discounts start to become an option if people club together.
Further down the line I’d like to see a not-for-profit NQE set up to cater specifically to enthusiasts.