The Curse of the Unlicensed Drone

The unlicensed drone

The tail end of 2015 will see thousands of new recreational drones being unwrapped in front of the Christmas tree, mostly tiny but some larger, and a lot of them will carry cameras. Expect the skies to be thick with the little creatures on Boxing Day as users start to master their radio controllers, and expect many tears to be shed as their craft crash into trees, smash into overhead cables, or fly off out of control towards the local fishing pond. Hopefully no dog walkers will be injured.

Of course, some users will survive, some will become more expert and will get considerable satisfaction from their new playthings. And some of these will become more adventurous and start flying beyond their back garden.  

What most of these recreation flyers won’t know is that they are not allowed to fly within 50 meters of a congested area or within 50 meters of any person, vehicle, building or structure, or over any group of people at any height. These are amongst the rules laid down and enforced by the Civil Aviation Authority, and any breach of the rules can attract a hefty fine of up to £5000 or a custodial sentence for breaching airspace.

We’ve no doubt all read about the drone that almost came within 20ft of a plane full of passengers as it was about to land at Heathrow Airport, and the not very bright feller who flew his toy through restricted airspace over a nuclear submarine base, and the idiot who flew over football stadiums packed with spectators and players.

Professional flyers wanting to operate commercially in the UK are required to undergo training and pass a rigorous ground exam and a flight test. And they will have taken out suitable insurance cover!

The message is, if you want to get the most out of your drone, get qualified and follow the rules – they’re there to protect you as well as the public.

And if you’re commissioning a drone operator to get some aerial video or stills, make sure they’ve got CAA permission to operate in the UK – you can check them out on the CAA website if you want to.

It simply makes sense.