Drones of a certain size will have to be registered in the United Kingdom, the British government has announced. Safety awareness courses for owners of drones will also be introduced.
Drones weighing more than half a pound (250 grams/8oz) will be subject to the registration scheme. That weight level is clearly pretty low, so many drones will be affected. That weight limit sits roughly on the line between toys and other drones.
The UK’s Department of Transport admitted that “the nuts and bolts still have to be ironed out”, the BBC reports, and there is no fixed date for when the rules will come into place.
Driving tests for drones?
The government department also announced that drone safety awareness tests will be used to make sure people wanting to fly drones can “prove that they understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations”.
Geo-fencing, which prohibits drone use around sensitive areas such as prisons and airports, will also be expanded under the new move. There have been some close calls in the recent past with drones almost colliding with commercial aircraft, and drones have been used to drop drugs into prisons.
“Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones,” said Aviation Minister Lord Martin Callanan.
“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.”
At odds with drone law in the United States
Earlier this year, a similar law in the United States was overturned following a court case.
In May, drone enthusiast John Taylor was successful in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which ruled in his favor. He had filed an initial petition in 2015 challenging drone registration, a few days after Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules on registration came into play.
The rules had required drone hobbyists to register their drone with the FAA’s website and pay a $5 charge.
In China, there are similar rules to the UK, with the weight minimum that triggers the need for registration being the same in both countries.
Drones represent one of those areas where technology and the law will inevitably evolve and change together, sometimes in haphazard and nonlinear ways, with different countries having very different rules.
We expect drone laws to change a lot in future as the technology itself develops and expands. For now, the UK has joined the side that favors greater government control.