back to article New UK drone laws are on the way – but actual Drones Bill still in limbo

New drone laws will be brought forward by the British government today in Parliament – but we won't see the long-awaited Drones Bill. The new laws will make it illegal to fly a drone weighing more than 250g without first registering with the Civil Aviation Authority and passing online safety tests. In addition, the existing …

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Stop

Twice in one day (thanks to Brexit)

have I been able to point out that this bill won't be debated in this parliament, or the next. so is also five years off. At least.

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Re: Twice in one day (thanks to Brexit)

You seem to be under the misapprehension that Parliament is in some sort of total lock-down with regard to Brexit, to the exclusion of all other business.

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Complete non-enforcement...

..is what is expected from the bureaucrats.

Model flying used to be on 27Mhz (with a small specialist UHF frequency available), and was licensed by the Post Office. You bought your license every year, but no one ever checked anything - and they certainly did not come out to the flying fields!

Then illegal CB started on 27Mhz, and the modellers asked the government to do something, given that they were paying for the frequency. The government did nothing except make CB legal as well, and offer the modellers another frequency (which meant throwing their expensibve single-frequency equipment away).

I fully expect the same level of capability from the current set of bureaucrats. By the way, what about model aircraft and helicopters? Do they have the same weight and height requirements? Current max weight for models before they begin to be controlled is 7kg, and thermal soarers will regularly break the 400ft altitude limit...

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Re: Complete non-enforcement...

"By the way, what about model aircraft and helicopters? Do they have the same weight and height requirements? "

Yes. Yes they do. And why on Earth would they not? These rules will apply to all remote controlled model aircraft, which includes all variants and versions of without any other distinction. Its not as if "model aircraft" and "helicopters" have not caused serious injury or death in the past. That is not the exclusive preserve of that other model aircraft, the multi-rotor colloquially, and incorrectly, known as Drone in popularspeak.

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Re: Complete non-enforcement...

"Yes. Yes they do. And why on Earth would they not?"

Where does it say that?

This:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/drones-to-be-registered-and-users-to-sit-safety-tests-under-new-government-rules

...makes zero mention of things that aren't drones, and an RC aircraft or heli is NOT a drone.

So back to you... define "drone" for me

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Re: Complete non-enforcement...

They pass laws thinking that the law will change human nature and also wipe out human stupidity. Hasn't worked yet and most likely will never work as it's doubtful that there hasn't been a law passed yet which hasn't been broken.

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Re: Complete non-enforcement...

1963 was the last RC licence issued. In the late 70s the arrival of CB radio caused serious interference problems and eventually the 35mhz band was obtained exclusively for model aircraft.

CB radio became legal in 1981.

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Re: Complete non-enforcement...

"an RC aircraft or heli is NOT a drone"

Of course it is. It's an unmanned aircraft either piloted remotely or with some autonomy. Just because quadcopter-style drones have increased in popularity recently doesn't mean older style drones are magically something else.

Fortunately we don't even need to rely on that simple bit of common sense, since everything is clearly defined in law. This new law (The Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018) applies to all "small unmanned aircraft", which are in turn defined as "any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite*, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight". There's no debate or clarification needed, it's all very clearly defined already (although there does seem to be a bit of a gap for drones between 20-150kg, with heavier ones being covered by EU regulations).

* Edit - Rockets are defined separately, so presumably not counted as aircraft even though they don't get an explicit exclusion here.

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Re: Complete non-enforcement...

So back to you... define "drone" for me

It won't be defined in the law, as per usual government wishy washy laws so you can sure that all model aircraft will eventually be covered after some test cases end up in court.

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Re: Complete non-enforcement...

"1963 was the last RC licence issued..."

Um, no. I inherited a small 2-channel glider my dad built when he built himself something bigger and I had a new licence for my 27MHz 2-ch Futaba set - and that was 1975. I don't think they had to be renewed every year but the last one was issued around the time CB became legal.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Complete non-enforcement...

'They pass laws thinking that the law will change human nature...'

Wherever did you get that notion?

They pass laws knowing full well that they'll be broken, humans being human, indeed, you might say they like passing laws they know will be broken.

I invite you to google/duckle/bungle/whatever the relevant passage from 'Atlas Shrugged' on the subject of laws meant to be broken (or, if you're feeling particularity masochistic, read the book and find it the hard way)

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'a 1km exclusion zone will be applied around all airport boundaries'

Is this counting airport boundaries as the ATZ or the fence around it?

* Aerodrome Traffic Zone - typically a 2.5NM radius 2000' high block of airspace around an aerodrome where it's illegal to fly without being in touch with ATC

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I don't get the 400ft/1km limit at all. An airliner on approach will be below 400ft from roughly 2.5km from the threshold, so why on earth would you allow drones to go up to 400ft as close as 1km?

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The very fact that you are asking such a question supports the need for tighter rules and shows how ignorant people are regarding air law. Whether or not any rules can be policed is questionable, but we do need to stop irresponsible morons operating remotely piloted aircraft in dangerous areas.

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Anonymous Coward

Will there be a UK aviation industry left

when this gets passed ?

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Erm...

"It's not going to be a comprehensive solution to the problem of people flying drones illegally ... hopefully, as happens in society in general, society will tend to self-regulate, so once people become more aware of what is required, other people will start to approach people flying and say hey, have you done your tests, or have you registered your drone, and then society starts looking after itself because it's been given the tools to do so."

And most people will turn and say "Fuck off". Maybe I just see the bad in people but unless you have someone who is flying who is genuinely nice who'll thank you as they didn't realise, most will just tell you to fuck off.

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Re: Erm...

Totally agree with you. I saw this and my immediate thought was "Yeah, right. Because that's worked so well for people using mobile phones while driving." That's something much more common and much more visible. There's still no enforcement as far as I can see, so I have no belief that this will be enforced either.

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Re: Erm...

"Totally agree with you. I saw this and my immediate thought was "Yeah, right. Because that's worked so well for people using mobile phones while driving." That's something much more common, much more visible"

You should have added and much more likely to cause injury/death.

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Re: Erm...

"And most people will turn and say "Fuck off". Maybe I just see the bad in people but unless you have someone who is flying who is genuinely nice who'll thank you as they didn't realise, most will just tell you to fuck off."

Exactly. How many passers-by ever ask a driver if they are licensed? Or rod fishermen? Or any other licensed activity?

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Boundary is the outer fence https://www.caa.co.uk/Commercial-industry/Airports/Aerodrome-licences/Licences/Aerodrome-licences-and-boundary-maps/

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Anonymous Coward

Online safety tests!

Well, I guess I'll have to do the online safety test. No doubt written by the geniuses who bring us all the other workplace mandatory on-line multi choice tests, the ones that not getting 100% on implies Trumpian levels of dumbness. Recent highlights have included:

Fire safety: @You hear the fire alarm: Do You a) Ignore it and carry on working b) Evacuate the building in an orderly manner or c) find some petrol and pour it on the fire?

GDPR: @Your work in HR gives you access to a list of the sexual orientation of your colleagues: Do you a)Keep it in a locked filing cabinet b)tweet the highlights or c) chat up the hunky guy you didn't pick up on your gaydar?

IT security: @You receive an email from a Nigerian Millionaire: Do you a) Open the attachments, but not before forwarding to all your friends and co-workers b) mutter under your breath about dodgy spam filters and trash it or c) respond, but maintain secrecy, sending them details of the corporate bank account?

Driving: @You have been for a long liquid lunch. What do you need to do before driving?: a)Drink at least two black coffees, b) nothing, you are an above average driver or c) wait at least X hours until totally sober?

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Re: Online safety tests!

This is a real question from the UK driving theory test:

You have been involved in an argument before starting your journey. This has made you feel angry. You should

a) start to drive, but open a window

b) drive slower than normal and turn your radio on

c) have an alcoholic drink to help you relax before driving

d) calm down before you start to drive

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Re: Online safety tests!

Here's one from the CAA/EASA Human Performance and Limitations written exam (12 multiple choice questions of which you have to answer 9 correctly to pass). It's one of the 9 written exams which is part of the PPL manned flight training):

If a solo pilot experiences "spatial disorientation" whilst flying on instruments, the best solution is to:

(a) Trust the senses

(b) Request ATC assistance

(c) Concentrate on, and trust, the Flight Instruments

(d) Close the eyes and fly by "feel"

My monies on a or d :)

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What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

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Are you concerned that your homing pigeons will be caught under the new regulations?

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> What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

A drone is defined in the amending order as a “small unmanned aircraft” (SUA), which in turn is defined in the main Air Navigation Order as

“any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight”.

But note that the amending order exempts drones weighing less than 250g from the new operator registration and pilot certification requirements.

The amending order also give the Secretary of State freedom to make regulations in future imposing a minimum age limit on drone operators, on or after the new operator registration and pilot certification rules come into force on 30 November 2019. There seems to be no power to refuse to certify drone pilots on account of their age.

Incidentally, the article is not strictly right to say that the new legislation “will come into force (if passed)”. The amending order needs no parliamentary endorsement, having been approved by the Privy Council on 23 May. The order is now law and will come into force without any debate or vote in parliament, unless MPs or Lords put down an annulment motion for which a majority of the Commons or Lords then votes within 40 days of today (excluding parliamentary breaks).

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Re: > What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight”.

Is a battery fuel or an attachment?

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Re: > What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

Is "aircraft" defined as man made?

Because if not, you could if you wanted, include homing pigeons in that.

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Re: > What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

"Is a battery fuel or an attachment?"

Almost certainly an attachment. Any decent lawyer would probably argue the battery is the "fuel" tank and the energy thus contained when charged is the "fuel". Now, if you can manage to argue a battery weighs less when discharged, you might have something, possibly a Nobel prize :-)

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Re: > What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

For an electrically propelled aircraft, the battery itself is considered to be a part of the aircraft – it is the battery’s charge that is the fuel. The logic for this is that the battery is basically the ‘fuel tank’ or, in other words, when the battery has run out of fuel, it still weighs the same.

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Re: > What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

"Is "aircraft" defined as man made?"

"“aircraft” means aircraft as defined for the purposes of the Chicago Convention which are either airframes with aircraft engines installed thereon or helicopters; "

I don't understand why people keep thinking they've come up with trick questions to expose obvious holes in the law. These are things gone over by thousands of lawyers with fine-toothed combs over the course of decades, including most countries in the world and long-standing international agreements. How likely do you really think it is that some random person who hasn't even bothered reading the publicly available laws already linked in the discussion is going to suddenly come up with the brilliant idea that the law defines pigeons as aircraft without anyone having thought and dealt with it at any point in the last century?

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Re: > What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation? How is one defined?

Is the word "joke" also defined in law?

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> What is a "drone" when it comes to this legislation?

Same as for all other new legislation - a Government spokesman brought in to make fatuous and ill-informed claims about the need for the legislation and to claim that it won't affect anyone except terrorists/paedophiles/tax evaders/...

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Edumacating the public.

It's not just that people don't know the laws regarding drones, many people don't seem to be even aware of the existence of drones and the various guises they appear in.

I've often been out flying a micro FPV quadcopter weighing less than 150 grams and curious people wonder what I'm flying, so I lend them my 2nd set of goggles to watch through the quad's camera while I fly it - almost all the spectators are wowed by it and didn't even know this sort of technology exists, the parents are usually then pestered by their kids "dad, can I have a drone?"

So quite how well the enforcement of new laws will go when the public are generally unaware of what a drone is could be very testing for the pilots.

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Hopefully.....

...hopefully, as happens in society in general, society will tend to self-regulate, so once people become more aware of what is required, other people will start to approach people flying and say hey, have you done your tests, or have you registered your drone, and then society starts looking after itself because it's been given the tools to do so."...

Ah.

Perhaps I'm going to go out this evening, ask everyone at the pub whether they have filled in their tax returns truthfully, and get them to show me the number of points on their licenses before they get in their car....

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Re: Hopefully.....

Red Dwarf series 5 episode 6, Back to Reality, when they spot a couple of posters, the 2nd one saying:

"Be a government informer, betray your family & friends, fabulous prizes to be won"

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Great weight limit

According to the BBC "Some drones, usually cheaper models, weigh less than 250g. But most - especially those with built-in cameras - weigh more."

So if you don't want all the hassle of having to pass a test/get a licence/whatever, you'll go for a drone without a camera. And if you're stupid enough to fly it outside of line-of-sight, or if it accidentally goes out of sight (say because of a strong gust of wind) you don't even have the view from a camera to give you a clue what's going on.

I feel safer already.

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Re: Great weight limit

So, my 1:1 scale model Hindenburg is exempt then?

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Re: Great weight limit

Depends if it is a mass limit or a weight limit, I suppose...

If it really is a weight limit, then I'm definitely building a UAV airship.

eg See http://www.silent-runner.net/index.php/Main_Page

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Re: Great weight limit

Oh, yes. It weighs less than nothing.

Although it's MASS is many tonnes. It's weight is low.

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Re: Great weight limit

I wouldn't try reading the comments on that BBC article unless you want a headache - basically the general public who post there are morons and have no real comprehension of the drone subject beyond what (lies / distorted truth) the media have spoon fed them.

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Re: Great weight limit

As I said last year -

https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/3372818

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What is a drone?

What is a drone? ……. a multi-copter? a fixed wing? a heli?

All of these can have technology installed to give "drone-like" behaviour, OR can be fully manual and all degrees in between.

And I fly my fleet - quads and fixed wing - on 3s 2200 Mah batteries... the weight of these batteries alone vary between 150>190 grams, so before I've even started I've blown my 250g budget.

I could build a large quad with no "drone" intelligence with an AUW of +1kg and so these regulations would not apply to me, but try explaining those subtleties to your average policeman.

It's the usual bureaucratic mess that will fail at the first prosecution.

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Re: What is a drone?

Some people (including me) are of the notion that the term "drone" refers to an autonomous craft which utilises a GPS receiver whilst flying so it can without user interaction hold its position, do waypoint missions, return to launch point and avoid obstacles with the use of proximity sensors, which makes it easy for any newbie to pick up and try to fly and quickly get into trouble if they're not careful - aka just about all of the DJI range

But "quad"/"quadcopter"/"multirotor" is what more describes FPV (first person viewing) racing/freestyle quadcopters where the user has to be in full control all the time as there's no autonomy involved beyond the craft using a gyroscope to hold its angle when you let go of the pitch & roll control - this level of flying usually requires the operator to have spent many hours practicing to get competent.

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Badly reported, or badly done?

If they've literally just used the word "Drone" in the legislation then they do have a problem. I'd argue that a "drone" is actually self-controlled (ie waypoints or AI). Whereas what I fly (manually) is a quadcopter. Certainly I don't think my Heli or fixed wing types are "drones".

I guess is the legislation contains a legal definition of "drone" then it could be fair enough, but then again if people appeal and say the legislation is faulty because what you're defining as a "drone" isn't... Where does that leave you? You could expand the definition of "drone" to encompass all model aircraft, really.

To be honest, I think the 250g weight limit is too low. I also disagree with putting the matter under the auspices of the CAA who - speaking frankly - are motivated to do what they can to ruin drones because they're a competitor to their industry. It's like putting gaslighters in charge of managing these new-fangled electric lights.

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Re: Badly reported, or badly done?

'I also disagree with putting the matter under the auspices of the CAA who - speaking frankly - are motivated to do what they can to ruin drones'

Don't take it personally, they're trying to legislate most forms of aviation into non-existence. It's safer that way.

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Re: Badly reported, or badly done?

"Don't take it personally, they're trying to legislate most forms of aviation into non-existence. It's safer that way."

In a (probably not too) distant dystopian Britain:

"M'lud, the accused was caught trying to sell a whole ream of photocopier paper on the black market, of which we all know is capable of being turned into 500 paper aeroplanes."

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Anonymous Coward

No mention of whether the registration process will cost.

I hope the law is only considered "broken" if you fly an unregistered drone, rather than fail to register a drone that you're not using.

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Good point, although if they're going to charge us for every craft over 250g we own that could mean some people forking out a small fortune, I would prefer a blanket cover as in you're personally registered to fly any craft within the weight limit, rather than get stung for each and every single one of them.

Also, in the instance you give/sell/lose/destroy your craft, how do you deregister it?

And if you build one up out of separate parts, at what point does it become classified as a drone? Technically you might be able to call it 'spare parts' and not have to register if it has everything except one of the motors is missing.

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