back to article Thou shalt use our drone app, UK.gov to tell quadcopter pilots

As Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle announce their engagement today, equally thrilling news is also breaking across Britain: new laws forcing drone operators to register. The new law will make it illegal to fly a drone weighing more than 250 grams unless you have registered with the government and passed various safety …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Flame

    Whilst we have businesses flying drones, they are flying Chinese, American or French technology, whereas in the 80s we led the home computer boom

    ... and we were completely unable to sort out the education system to keep it going.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Perhaps this is the UK's attempt to jump-start the market in "micro-drones" and lead the world in twenty years' time.

    2. BongoJoe

      ... and we were completely unable to sort out the education system to keep it going.

      Exactly.

      The education system kept churning out Middle Managers which were the bane of my techie life.

      1. Snapper

        'IT'

        My kids were brought up on an unrelenting diet of Microsoft Office as 'IT'. Homework was usually prepared using PowerPoint on templates that were sized as US Letter, as it seems the teachers didn't know the difference. Hence all their work was squashed horizontally when printed on A4.

        Don't know what it taught them apart from IT being boring and that mediocre results were acceptable.

        1. EricM

          Re: 'IT'

          > Don't know what it taught them apart from IT being boring and that mediocre results were acceptable.

          "IT" often taught in school as just being boring crap ... could not agree more here...

          However, the UK is not alone. At least here in Germany it's exactly the same. I guess this happens in all parts of the world where Microsoft is allowed to pay its way into the education system to farm future customers.

          Raspberrys to the rescue ...

  2. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Some regulation is required, but this is just being heavy handed, faceless pen pushers will be delighted, more job security !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think the Police are the ones that will love this.

      Ooo protest going on...can't have anyone checking what we up to...but we of course can capture, match and store everyones face, even if they have nothing to do with it or are going about their legal right to protest.

      1. K Silver badge

        Agreed, but I suspect they'll get a taste of their own medicine... Somebody will reverse engineer the App and do this to the Police drones:

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4695594/Drone-unit-historic-step-policing-UK.html

  3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    WTF?

    What is a "drone" anyway?

    My son is building a plane from magicboard. It will probably weigh more than 250g once the batteries and motor are in. So I need to register this now?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is a "drone" anyway?

      Yes...

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: What is a "drone" anyway?

        Not necessarily.

        https://bmfa.org/News/News-Page/ArticleID/2496/DfT-announces-commitment-to-implement-new-rules-for-drones

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What is a "drone" anyway?

          I've done my share of RC modelling, and as a Yank I've not heard much about drones being restricted in the US this way, as of yet. It's just talk so far, but things are likely to change soon and so this DfT thing is interesting.

          The modelling-relevant paragraph from the BMFA article:

          "We remain hopeful that the DfT will retain a ‘common sense’ attitude to model flying and will also follow EASA’s lead on this. EASA recognise the excellent safety record achieved by model flying and have made special provisions in their rules to allow a much ‘lighter touch’ to be applied."

          That page also has a link to http://dronesafe.uk/. It's got the "Drone Code" (coming soon to theatre near you!) and describes the "app" as a map app that has a layer visually displaying restriction zones, so you can't claim "I didn't know."

          The app also has a ‘Fly Now’ feature that "enables you to share your drone flight location with other app users and the wider drone community, helping to reduce the risk of a drone related incident in the UK’s airspace."

          Um, need a bit of legal translation here. Is that, or is that not, saying the Fly Now "feature" is optional...?

          The announcement and PDF never mention flying model aircraft at all, only "drones" period full stop. So the BMFA is basically expecting the government to eventually wake up and include modeling exemptions in the new drone codes. A lot of BMFA are probably long time pilots (ret.) and will have connexions, so I expect they'll have some pull here.

          I figure they'll say "If it can't hover and weighs less than 5kg, it's not a drone" or something similar. The obvious next step for the hard-core dronies will be miniaturized parasail drones that go so slow they might as well be hovering!

          1. nijam

            Re: What is a "drone" anyway?

            > We remain hopeful that the DfT will retain a ‘common sense’ attitude

            How naive. Or did you mean "acquire" rather than "retain"? That would still be naive, though.

    2. nijam

      Re: What is a "drone" anyway?

      It's a component of bagpipes.

  4. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So...

    They assume every drone is controlled by a smartphone now ?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: So...

      I would assume not. This is the "get a fishing licence on paper" digital equivalent. It may still be for the wrong reasons and the wrong method (why is a web app not enough!!!).

      But any "command and control" software they wish to add to it... us pure pie in the sky insane thinking.

      However the article does mention integrating their systems into drone software (I assume it is on drone controllers? Though phone apps may have mandatory inclusion?). If this is just altitude limits and no fly zones (airports etc) from the GPS, or something more deeply involved I've no idea sorry.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: So...

        If this is just altitude limits and no fly zones (airports etc) from the GPS, or something more deeply involved I've no idea sorry.

        May's government is involved it. That should give you plenty of "idea". The same government who employs rhymes-with-Elmer Fudd.

        Altitude limits, airport no fly zones, attitude limits (ie "Drone operator pissed us off by finding a way to capture footage of..."), and also protest limits (not near protests to film bad stuff by the piggywiggies), alleged terror incident limits (so you can film all the fleeing panicking people to your hearts desire, but you can't film that it's just a couple of blokes having a dust-up), and more that even I can't conceive of.

  5. TRT Silver badge

    Could they perhaps...

    require any drone over a certain size to carry an operational identification transmitter, say a radio beacon weighing 10g, emitting a unique digital registration code on a standard multiplexed frequency which could be read by a smartphone user for reporting of privacy infringements? A sort of digital permit for the pilot, or like a registration plate on a car? Or both, even. Micro-SD card carrying the pilot's registration ID.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Could they perhaps...

      I guess the downvote is for "10g" because the remaining part seems, in principle, sane to me. The difficult practical part would be making it a legal requirement for a drone RC-receiver to carry such "registration sign".

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Could they perhaps...

        If there's a two-way communication built into the drone anyway, then it should be possible to do it without a separate transmitter module. I thought of a separate module because then it gets delivered as part of your drone pilot registration return and it's standard for the country it's operating in. There's no reason I picked 10g and a separate module other than it's a small amount of payload which seems reasonable to pack in enough electronics to produce a signal of the required strength to always be detectable a little bit further than the range of the vehicle's operation - line of sight.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Could they perhaps...

        How do you enforce it so that the required identification beacon is carried? Well, in a similar way to how you ensure that cars have their registration plates? You see one, you check for a beacon. Is it the correct one? Well, I guess that's kind of hard. Same as policing anything else really. But at least having a digital registration device makes it easier.

        1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

          Re: Could they perhaps...

          Basically a IFF for drones (err a DIFF). Most commercial drones can be locked down to stop flying near restricted airspace, so I can see no reason why the same rules would not apply if the IFF is not functioning.

          Of course you can't legislate for hackers or own-build types. Also what about RC aircraft?

          Also the CAA is the wrong organisation for this. They are used to dealing with 100's of registration, not thousands. Need a separate organisation totally funded by registration fees

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Could they perhaps...

            there's around 20,000 aircraft (including balloons, microlights etc) registered with CAA in UK.

          2. Adrian Midgley 1

            Funded by who benefits from regulation!

            There are several bad effects of introducing a law saying you may not now do something you could before unless you pay us as much as we spend on allowing you to.

            Among them are a temptation to regulate where it might not be needed, and a lack of incentive to operate efficiently.

            Who is claimed to benefit? In short, all citizens, residents, visitors.

            Who should pay for that benefit?

            ...all citizens, residents and visitors, through general taxation.

          3. nijam

            Re: Could they perhaps...

            > Also the CAA is the wrong organisation for this

            Yes, indeed, their response to drones has from the outset been to attempt to get them banned.

    2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: Could they perhaps...

      The problem is

      It will be required, but

      A) Wont be ready to buy before it is mandatory

      and or

      B) will be overweight ue batteries like mad and or cost a fortune.

      Also, this does prevent the law respecting ppl from using it, but not the not law abiding ones.

      How do they plan to enforce this?

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Could they perhaps...

        "How do they plan to enforce this?"

        More jobsworths in peaked caps.

    3. dubious

      Re: Could they perhaps...

      'Miniature' one and two way ADSB transceivers are already available which would enable your multirotor to participate in TCAS avoidance, but they are of the $2k region, eat power, and aren't really miniature enough for smaller than 450 class craft. The sort of proximity flying your typical 150-250 class is doing is not going to interfere with aircraft in any case, so it would just be dead weight and something else to break in a crash!

  6. Gavin Chester
    Facepalm

    Another great decision

    The majority of law abiding fliers will register. The people breaking the existing rules will not bother and continue to break the rules.

    Not sure how this improves the current situation (I already use Drone Assist...) If I was looking to do something illegal why on earth would I bother registering in the first place???

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another great decision

      I guess it gives them a tangible law to break, rather than just "being a dickhead".

      1. Gavin Chester

        Re: Another great decision

        Possibly, but the rules exist already in the Air Navigation Orders. It's creating new rules that will be hard to enforce for the same of it.

        Look at mobile use in cars, it was already covered under driving without due care and attention, a new rule may make it a more tangible "crime" but judging by the number of people I still see clutching their mobile as they drive its not really effective as a deterrent.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Another great decision

          "Look at mobile use in cars, it was already covered under driving without due care and attention, a new rule may make it a more tangible "crime" but judging by the number of people I still see clutching their mobile as they drive its not really effective as a deterrent."

          I used to think that too, then it was explained to me that it was an administrative law. The driving without due care and attention required a court case and a police officer taking time to attend court to give evidence. The more specific using a phone while droving offence is ticketed on the spot and although there remains the option to challenge the ticket in court, the vast majority will accept they did wrong and pay up.

          1. John Miles

            Re: the vast majority will accept they did wrong and pay up.

            Sadly I suspect they will accept they were caught and pay up, I doubt they will consider they did anything wrong

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Another great decision

            "The more specific using a phone while droving offence"

            Oops! I meant "driving" of course. I'm sure there's no offence being committed by cow herders using the phones whilst as on the job. At least not that one, anyway.

    2. Haku

      Re: Another great decision

      "The majority of law abiding fliers will register. The people breaking the existing rules will not bother and continue to break the rules."

      I've said essentially that multiple times here, along with the fact that all the police will end up with is a "nice list" when what they actually want in the case of someone being a dick with a drone is a "naughty list" which will never happen, but they have this "nice list" so they might see who lives in the area of the incedent and go interrogate them just to be sure...

  7. Jim 59

    Flying anywhere near airports is obviously madness, for which operators should go straight to prison, and no mistake. Flying near a motorway endangers others, and flying near high voltage lines endangeres the operator. All pretty much common sense, as observed by kite flyers for the last 100 years, and remote-controlled plane enthusiasts.

    But these new rules seem like an overreaction. I hate it when drone nutters annoy their neighbours or endanger others, but I quite like the way they can take arial video of interesting places. This "video" aspect is a significant freedom for citizens, and one the government is not to keen on. Are they using the (highly valid) plane-endangerment argument to slip in a bit of oppression on the side?

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Bit of a bugger if you live anywhere between Kew and West Hounslow then perhaps? Are you going to say to every resident, "No sorry, you live along the final approach flightpath so no drone for you"?

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "Are you going to say to every resident, "No sorry, you live along the final approach flightpath so no drone for you"?"

        No drone outside their front door, yes. Because the alternative is to allow people to fly drones in flight paths, which is obviously stupid.

      2. GlenP Silver badge

        I live almost adjacent to a small airport roughly in line with the end of the runway. I would never, ever, under any circumstances consider flying a drone from my property it's simple common sense.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          "

          I live almost adjacent to a small airport roughly in line with the end of the runway. I would never, ever, under any circumstances consider flying a drone from my property it's simple common sense.

          "

          The problem with "common sense" is that it's so often wrong. There would be nothing dangerous or wrong with practicing drone racing or similar low-level operations in your house or garden. Or even taking some videos of your property from 50 or 60 feet up. If an aircraft using the airport is flying lower than 100 feet over your property, a drone would be the least of the pilot's problems unless your house is extremely close to the runway threshold.

          1. gerdesj Silver badge

            "The problem with "common sense" is that it's so often wrong"

            Absolutely: you don't allow for error - navigation or mechanical.

  8. jms222

    When did flying become about apps ?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Since day one...

      App, app and away!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Since day one...

        WIll 2017 be known as The Year Of The Great 'Appening?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm surprised no one has wished Harry well and passed congratulations onto his father.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I thought the topic here was drones.

      Oh, wait ... never mind.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A drone that will never make the thone.

  10. Chrissy

    What is a drone?

    What is a drone?

    Like all laws, this will always hang on the definitions, and likely be really badly drafted.

    I've just built 2 Emax quads and a flying wing, all 3 with FPV, all above 300g TOW.

    The quads have basic flight controllers purely as that's what quads need to fly, but their FCs have no GPS or RetToHome logic built in.

    The police will not have the time or expertise to delve into any 1 FC's capabilities, so this would be simplified to: "a drone is anything with multiple rotors".

    So to your average policeman, because "quads are multirotors, a quad is therefore a drone" and so would fall in this legislation, whereas the flying wing would not.

    Yet I could easily install a full featured FC in the wing and get it to autonomously fly from say Windsor to LHR and back, and the police would be none the wiser to its capabilities, nor would they likely seize it as "its not got multiple props so its not a drone, Sarge".

    All they would see is the wing, a battery, a motor and two three plastic boxes, so the default response will likely slide towards "seize ANY RC kit as its better we err on the side of caution".

    I also see this in the Gov announcement:

    "

    The government is also working closely with drone manufacturers to use geo-fencing to prevent drones from entering restricted zones.

    "

    Good luck with geofencing any of my RC kit; none of it has GPS, nor any logic besides basic FC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is a drone?

      Also, FOS flight controllers, like the Ardupilot, can be had for well under £100 and include all you need to make a 'drone' fully autonomous. Good luck enforcing that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is a drone?

      "The government is working closely with drone manufacturers..."

      DJI may be playing ball but good luck getting the open source projects to comply and trusting that nobody will disable such code later if they do. A Chinese clone flight controller board can be got on eBay for £18. If Dope Dealer Dave wants a drone for nefarious purposes, there will be someone who will build him one from untraceable parts with the geo-restrictions neutered for a fat enough wodge of beer vouchers.

      A recent story about the "Beat the BOSS" micro mobile phones that can be easily concealed said they cost about £25 and are changing hands for up to £500 each in prisons. With that kind of mark up plus the money that could be made smuggling drugs or weapons, DDDave can afford to offer someone £1000 tax-free to make him a drone that costs £200 to build. With the state of many people's finances as they are in this age of austerity, somebody will be tempted.

  11. heyrick Silver badge

    Permissions?

    So when it is mandatory to use the app, will the app permissions become onerous? Just think - an app you must use, and easy access to your accounts, contacts, etc...

  12. blcollier

    OK, so which part do I register?

    I built my hexacopter from scratch; the "all-up" flying weight is ~1.8kg, so it definitely falls into the "must be registered" category. It crashed during its first flight and I had to completely replace the frame. Very soon I will be replacing the flight controller with a completely new unit. So far that's two fairly major components that will have been replaced; let's assume that at some point in the future I will replace these - or other - components again (that's a fairly safe assumption for a DIY hexacopter). This hexacopter is basically Trigger's Broom, so at what point do I need to re-register it? Replacing which component constitutes it being a "new" device?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK, so which part do I register?

      If there's no tax to be paid, does it matter if it's a "new" device?

      I'm thinking of a comparison with cars here: as far as I know, you're allowed to modify your car and tell the authorities about the change, but if you had two cars in your garage, but just one pair of number plates, and changed the "description" every time you wanted to use a different car from the one you used on the previous day, then the authorities might get annoyed.

      The press release is vague on many points. The "flying above 400 feet" bit caught my eyes. Height above what? How close can one fly to the edge of a cliff? There's an 800-foot sea cliff in Devon. Perhaps this is already clarified by older aviation legislation.

      1. blcollier

        Re: OK, so which part do I register?

        The 400 foot ceiling refers to an "above sea level" limit (this is already in the Drone Code rules). Technically you're not allowed to fly a drone from your 800ft cliff because you're already above the limit. It's supposedly to avoid interfering with manned aircraft, but it's hard to see a manned aircraft wanting to get that close to an 800ft cliff...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OK, so which part do I register?

          Are you sure about the "above sea level"? Wouldn't that make most of Scotland out of bounds (assuming the same rules apply to Scotland and we don't have a way of flying underground)?

          1. blcollier

            Re: OK, so which part do I register?

            No, I'm not. The Drone Code isn't clear... And on a blog post on the CAA website it also states "400 feet above *you*", which is also totally different to "400 feet above sea level".

            1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: "400 feet above *you*"

              So I see a lot of entrepreneur drone flyers using microlights to get above the 400ft limit? ;)

          2. nijam

            Re: OK, so which part do I register?

            > ... make most of Scotland out of bounds

            SNP already did that anyway, or at least intended to.

        2. Chrissy

          Re: OK, so which part do I register?

          Looking at the DroneCode PDF, it doesn't mention either AMSL or AGL, or height or altitude, so no-one knows what the DroneCode actually means by 400 ft.

          I can assume that it means AGL (above ground level) as

          1: that is something that can be - roughly!! -"measured" visually - the average height of a tree in the UK is 65 ft.

          2: that is what most General Aviation uses around airfields, which is normally the only place a manned aircraft would be under 400ft AGL, hence the rule

          3: That is what Article 94 of the ANO dictates.

          Without either a contour map or an altimeter and access to the current pressure, Joe Average has NO WAY of knowing his AMSL.

          But this is the problem with badly drafted and communicated laws like this... the document that most drone fliers will read - the DroneCode - is itself vague, so no-one knows whether they are legal or not.

        3. Denarius Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: OK, so which part do I register?

          >> but it's hard to see a manned aircraft wanting to get that close to an 800ft cliff.

          Judging from YouTube, some parts of the pom coast have frequent low level flights by gliders along coastal cliffs riding the incoming wind. My own club has already had some clod park by side of road and send his RC device across landing strip just as plane was on finals. Telephoto lenses can be useful both ways so the fuzz can investigate

    2. IDoNotThinkSo
      FAIL

      Re: OK, so which part do I register?

      I'm in the same boat - built in about 2013, dropped into a field from 50m after a power failure and rebuilt with a collection of parts. Thinking of replacing the old 16-bit flight controller with a new one, just because.

      I'm not about to fly it anywhere stupid, because crashing happens. I just take monitoring photographs of a wildlife site miles from anywhere. As there is no useful mobile signal there, what good would an app be?

      None of the legislation will 'apply' to the idiots anyway.

    3. pleb

      Re: OK, so which part do I register?

      Reminds me of Trigger's broom (Only Fools and Horses).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK, so which part do I register?

        "[...] Trigger's broom (Only Fools and Horses)."

        I wondered where that reference originated. For a TV source you can go further back To Dixon of Dock Green talking about his pipe given to him by his late wife. It had had the bowl and stem each replaced several times.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: OK, so which part do I register?

          It goes back way further than that... it's the ship of Theseus paradox (Plutarch?), sorry I can't Google it just now I am on a tiny mobile device with a rain covered screen

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome

    to the nanny state. Whereby one miscreant takes a fun hobby and proceeds to turn it into a legislative fucking nightmare.

    Fuck em, I'm not registering my quad copter.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Welcome

      Whereby one miscreant takes a fun - but potentially lethal - hobby...

      FTFY.

      1. Jimmy2Cows

        Re: Welcome

        Whereby one miscreant takes a fun - but potentially lethal - hobby...

        FTFY.

        I'm assuming you mean fucked it for you. Doesn't seem like you fixed anything.

        Anything one does can be potentially lethal in some way. You gonna legislate everything?

        We should legislate chopping vegetables. A potentially lethal activity after all. People might cut themselves, bleed out and die.

        Houses should all be bungalows. People can fall down stairs and kill themselves. Better legislate against staircases too.

        Doesn't matter how much you regulate this. Said miscreant will still act like a twat. You can't legislate against stupid, no matter how tempting that is.

  14. ISYS

    Common Sense or New Laws

    As far as I can tell there are two things about Drones/UAVS/Quadcopters that concern people. Safety and Privacy; you could endanger aircraft/cars/people with them and you can film other people/places with them. Both of these situations apply to many other items - Model Aircraft/High Altitude Balloons/Kites etc all carry the same risks.

    So as we currently apply common sense or have existing legislation for the above why do we need new laws?

    1. FIA

      Re: Common Sense or New Laws

      So as we currently apply common sense or have existing legislation for the above why do we need new laws?

      Because.... stupid people. (Stupid people think they have common sense too.... they don't).

      It's easy to buy and fly a drone, If you're building and flying a model aircraft you probably have some degree of skill (or pretty soon a broken aircraft) and a good amount of financial incentive to not wreck it. Plus the number of people flying them is fairly small.

      However, now it's easy for any idiot to spend a relatively small amount of money and fly a giant whirling maiming machine with no training or common sense.

      ...and they do. (see all the news reports of people flying drones in really really dumfuck places).

      'This is why we can't have nice things'.

      1. blcollier

        Re: Common Sense or New Laws

        Not sure I entirely agree with that. Most of the cheapies you'll find for ~£100 or less would probably struggle to reach the existing altitude/range limits. Of course you could still fly it like a total knob, but it would be easy to track you down; most craft in that price range probably won't have a large enough transmission range to make it hard to track you down, especially when so many of them use WiFi for control. The "big boy" stuff, capable of autonomous flights or very long ranges, like DJI phantoms and such are not cheap.

        News reports are not a good indicator, since you only get to hear about the extreme ends of the bell curve and usually it's relayed in a sensationalist manner.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: ~£100

          While I expect most if not all drone operators to be great people... the pricing is not a limiting factor to dumb people. You could make drones cost £15,000 and there would still be someone who won the lottery/sold their parents car to buy one, fly it into something, and give everyone else a black mark. :(

        2. really_adf

          Re: Common Sense or New Laws

          blcollier: "News reports are not a good indicator, since you only get to hear about the extreme ends of the bell curve and usually it's relayed in a sensationalist manner."

          Yes, but try telling politicians (and those that seek to influence them) that.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Common Sense or New Laws

        "However, now it's easy for any idiot to spend a relatively small amount of money and fly a giant whirling maiming machine with no training or common sense."

        Define "small amount" and "giant". My dinky little drone (cost around €60) measures maybe 12 inches from one corner to the other. The controller works at 2.4GHz, and I would guess the range is something in the order of 70 or so metres. If I used a freshly charged battery and hit the throttle to max, I very much doubt I'd get anywhere near 400ft. I'm not going to try it, as the controller chip isn't intelligent - if the control signal is lost, it'll just fall out of the sky (instead of doing something sensible like spinning the blades until the gyro detects a downwards movement, then keep at that rate for a slow descent). The "small amount of money" devices on sale everywhere are barely capable of being a threat to anything larger than a kitten. I can imagine, certainly, that dropping one on a busy road could cause a crash, but then so could dropping a brick - shall we regulate who is allowed to handle bricks? The sort of drones that allegedly buzz airplanes are going to be larger more capable devices, at which point we will be looking at idiots doing things intentionally, and no amount of legislation is going to stop that. After all, if these people are going to break laws by flying in restricted areas, in the vicinity of aircraft, potentially endangering the lives of hundreds, what's another law going to matter?

        "'This is why we can't have nice things'."

        Yeah, we always end up getting screwed by the lowest common denominator. :-(

  15. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    Autonomous drones ?

    which are probably far easier to implement than autonomous cars ...

    Once again, proof that the powers that be are actually a bit thick.

    1. Chrissy

      Re: Autonomous drones ?

      To be fair, its not necessarily "thickness" as the cause......You need to remember that most MPs and senior civil servants INITIALLY mooting these bills are mostly Arts grads and so DO NOT UNDERSTAND ANY of this beyond a very superficial level ("I press this pedal, my car gets faster...I know not how"); ...... How mechanical things actually work - how they move, fly, drive, navigate and are powered, for both commercial and home-built devices - is indistinguishable from magic to them.

      This is purely "something must be done... this is something, so this must be done" grandstanding.

      As soon as this reaches the CAA and BMFA its practicality will get torn apart and it will vanish like a fart in a breeze, or be so radically different it may as well have a new name.

      Baroness Sugg will then again be shown - blinking uncomprehendingly like a 5 yr old at a magic show like she was with the drones - at the next "Big Bad Danger To Society" when she is again rolled out to announce the next bit of stupidity masquerading as "law-making".

      1. Chrissy

        Re: Autonomous drones ?

        Jesus wept.... I present our lawmakers, living in La La Land:

        "

        DJI, the world’s leading maker of unmanned aerial vehicles, Monday released a white paper concluding the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set its weight standard far too low for determining which drones pose the lowest risk to people.

        While the FAA’s 2015 Registration Task Force (RTF) said drones weighing up to 250 grams posed the lowest risk, further research shows that standard was based on poorly chosen data and deeply flawed assumptions – including an almost 50-year-old model of casualties from a nuclear war that destroys all hospitals. Using more accurate scientific inputs, DJI’s white paper concludes unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) up to 2.2 kilograms can be safely flown with the lowest risk.

        "

        https://www.dji.com/newsroom/news/dji-proposes-higher-maximum-weight-for-lowest-risk-drone-category

        1. Chrissy

          Re: Autonomous drones ?

          and this:

          https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/07/27/drone_test_results_wont_be_released_dft/

          and this

          http://clearvisionsecurity.co.uk/drone-collision-study/

          1. blcollier

            Re: Autonomous drones ?

            Holy crap, that second link... Absolutely demolished the report...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Autonomous drones ?

              Uncontained engine failures still happen. I wonder where the hub cover went from this one?

              http://avherald.com/h?article=4af15205

  16. Andy 73

    Death of the UK drone industry

    I and many other responsible drone pilots welcomed the Drone Code and other efforts to prevent the drone industry from sliding into chaos. Unfortunately, the rules as they currently stand have pretty much killed off any commercial growth in this space.

    Realistically, the requirements for separation and control over people and buildings near the flight mean that flying is essentially illegal in all but the most rural and remote locations. For most people, even flying in their garden to take a picture of their house is likely to be breaking the Drone Code. For pilots who want to run a business, the requirement to stay squeaky clean makes this hard to ignore and hard work to work around.

    The requirement to spend around £1000 for a license means that running what is essentially a 'flying camera' is economically hard to justify. No normal photographer would want to shoulder such a cost, and no normal business can justify such an outlay when they can find other means to carry out remote inspection. I know national businesses who can see how it might be useful for their work (builders, solar panel installers, insurance inspectors), but cannot see how they can scale it when 'an operator' is expensive to maintain for an as yet unproven benefit.

    This new measure was announced as 'enabling the industry', but I cannot see one word of the legislation than enables. It puts further barriers up, demonises existing owners and complicates what is already a regulation-heavy process.

    1. blcollier

      Re: Death of the UK drone industry

      Don't see why you're getting downvoted for that. I looked into this and was instantly turned off when I saw the cost of a PfCO license and the fact that you're still subject to the same restrictions as an unlicensed pilot (500m range, 400ft above you, not within 150m of people or crowds, etc) even when you're operating with permission on private property. Literally all that PfCO does is let you legally sell your footage/photos and that's a steep entry price to pay (ignoring the cost of "professional"-grade equipment in the first place).

      I still have my hexacopter and I'm still going to fly it, but getting into professional/paid aerial photography is still quite far out of reach.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Death of the UK drone industry

      A new D5 camera body costs £5k. £1000, tax deductible, should not be economically hard to justify for a professional, if making money.

      1. blcollier

        Re: Death of the UK drone industry

        ... and a drone to fly such a camera, such as the DJI Matrice 600, will set you back around £4k-£5k. If you're flying ~10k worth of kit (excluding the lens or any other accessories) then no, a PfCO license at £1k won't be that much of a hindrance. A £1k Mavic Pro on the other hand can shoot 4K footage and is more than capable of professional aerial photography. That's where the problem starts to come in...

      2. Andy 73

        Re: Death of the UK drone industry

        > A new D5 camera body costs £5k. £1000, tax deductible, should not be economically hard to justify for a professional, if making money.

        A drone with anything resembling the quality of a D5 starts at around £10K. Mid range (from a camera point of view) 4K drones are 6K. Most surveyors and mapping will spend £2K+. And in a year they will be obsolete. However, as others have pointed out, the PfCO makes operation in many circumstances where your D5 would go unnoticed practically impossible. As a D5 operator, you will have been aware of the fights over the right to take photos in a public place. This legislation makes it illegal to take your camera out in the first place. The additional cost is merely the final insult.

        Unlike established photography business, drones are a nascent industry, with many uses being experimental or very low margin. We can see lots of places where they can deliver value, but business models are still emerging. With the rapid technological developments rendering last year's models obsolete, costs and regulations are one more reason not to get involved.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Death of the UK drone industry

        Does any professional seriously think its a good idea to use a D5 on drone?

    3. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Death of the UK drone industry

      Limit on impulse purchases perhaps.

      In an area which has, say, 5 estate agents, 5 surveyors, two roofing firms plus scope for vanity purchases there is likely to be enough business for at least one drone firm.

      I still remember a business a couple of decades back which flew over our town and photographed everywhere then sold aerial shots of your home to anyone interested.

      Having every roofer, builder and garden designer buy and fly their own drones is a recipe for problems.

      Having the local planning department overfly all the streets for hidden developments is a more interesting prospect.

      Having drones replace those bloody police helicopters might save time and money. Patroling the beaches for swimmers in trouble might help what is left of the coastguards (and coastwatch).

      So there is still plenty of scope for legitimate use but also plenty of scope for idiots to ruin it for everyone.

      As for cost, the bar would, I think, have to be around the £1-2k mark minimum to even mildly deter the great unwashed.

      Where a mobile phone can cost £1k, four new tyres for a Beemer can easily cost £500, and a supermarket shop (including booze) can be well north of £100 then anything under 3 figures will get lost in the noise. Also, credit cards.

      Pitching a licence cost at or above the purchase price of a drone is just ridiculous. Sure fire guarantee that most will not pay it until enforcement with fines 10 times the cost is seen to be effectively a sure fire thing.

      Shame, because I would quite like to be able to do a bit of aerial photography. It can't be that difficult to build your own geofence - say a small transmitter at each corner of your garden - and fly only within the box. However unless you have a very smart camera which will only photograph areas inside the geofence you would still be able snoop on your neighbours.

  17. AS1

    Any difference between this and the EASA discussion paper for March 2017?

    https://www.easa.europa.eu/newsroom-and-events/press-releases/easa-publishes-proposal-operate-small-drones-europe

  18. IanDs

    The fact remains that drones like this that can be bought off-the-shelf and flown by an untrained (and uncaring) member of the public are a new thing, as opposed to enthusiast model aircraft owned by much more committed people. As such there are definite threats they pose to society -- real danger on one side (bringing down a plane, causing a car crash, dropping on people from a great height) and genuine invasion of privacy on the other (spying on nude back-garden sunbathers, small vulnerable children, people in general), which are going to need some type of legal control to stop idiots abusing them. Of course this will add some restrictions to people who use them sensibly, but this is true of pretty much everything. The difficult bit is getting the tradeoff right between onerous restrictions on sensible users and controlling stupid ones, but there's no right answer here -- the howls of anguish at restrictions from freedom-loving drone fans will be drowned out by press (and society) outrage the first time a plane crashes and kills people -- maybe lots of them -- due to a drone strike. And I wouldn't mind betting that Heathrow is one of the most likely places in the world for this to happen first, given the huge numbers of houses under the flightpaths...

    1. IDoNotThinkSo

      There is no evidence that a consumer drone could bring down an airliner.

      I would guess drones are the new UFOs when it comes to airline pilots. Try identifying something 30cm across at 400 knots. How long can you actually see it for?

      Don't bet on at least half of these sightings not being geese, plastic bags, etc etc etc.

      1. blcollier

        >There is no evidence that a consumer drone could bring down an airliner.

        There's no evidence but it's conceivable.

        Almost everything on my 550mm-footprint hexacopter would likely be shredded by a commercial airliner's engine. Including the 3-cell 5.2Ah lithium polymer battery strapped to the belly... I don't even want to know what would happen if such volatile chemistry ignited in a jet engine...

        1. PC Paul

          > I don't even want to know what would happen if such volatile chemistry ignited in a jet engine...

          I suspect: not much.

          I think any bit of a jet engine that can be got to by ingestion is either strong enough that it will rapidly completely disassemble the cells and even if they ignite it will be spread over a large enough area to no melt anything, or is capable of handling extreme heat and pressure so literally won't care.

          I could be completely wrong, of course. Where are Mythbusters when you need them?

          1. blcollier

            > Where are Mythbusters when you need them?

            The Mythbusters might not be much help here. They have bad form with jet engines: they couldn't get a jet engine to flip a car over when Top Gear could. :D. IIRC they made up for it in a later episode though and did actually get a jet engine to flip a car (and Top Gear had an actual airliner at near-takeoff power instead of a smaller jet engine mounted to a truck).

            True, you are talking about a relatively small amount of energy in a LiPo battery when compared to the size and strength of your average airliner jet engine.

          2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

            Depends a bit if the object hitting the front of the engine at a couple of hundred miles an hour, maybe a bit more, is hard and heavy enough to damage the engine. Bird strike resistance is built in to jet engines, but only up to a point. For more, see the Unreliable Source:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_strike

            Conclusion: I think the other person overestimates the fragility of his drone compared to the fragility of birds and jet engines.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Wikipedia?

              Seriously?

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            What I was told was: an ordinary bird going into a jet engine: no problem; it gets mashed up and incinerated; a bird with a tiny metal ring round its foot goes into a jet engine: a chain reaction as bits of rotor come off and destroy other rotors and the engine is totally destroyed. This information may be out of date or plain wrong, but perhaps this part of it is true: something hard enough can do a lot of damage to a jet engine when ingested even if it is very small. (Bird rings tend to be plastic or made of very thin aluminium, I think.)

            1. Kiwi Silver badge

              What I was told was: an ordinary bird going into a jet engine: no problem; it gets mashed up and incinerated; a bird with a tiny metal ring round its foot goes into a jet engine: a chain reaction as bits of rotor come off and destroy other rotors and the engine is totally destroyed. This information may be out of date or plain wrong, but perhaps this part of it is true: something hard enough can do a lot of damage to a jet engine when ingested even if it is very small. (Bird rings tend to be plastic or made of very thin aluminium, I think.)

              I recall a doco on the C130 (I think, one of the larger jet-powered military cargo planes) and it was said that a bottle top (eg beer bottle) is enough to destroy such an engine, exactly as you say. The downvoters should check into aviation standards first - an engine that gets hit by a 1.8kg bird and safely shuts down without breaking up is considered a pass - note the engine is not expected to survive or keep running after such an impact, just break up in a way that is safe for people in the plane and on the ground. GIYWEBIH1

              1Google Is Your Worst Enemy But It Helps...

    2. Andy 73

      Virtually any drone (all drones?) available to consumers and big enough to get near an airliner obey the geofenced no-fly zones around airports, and the height restrictions elsewhere. You cannot 'accidentally' get near an aircraft, it has to be a deliberate act.

      So how exactly do you think registration is going to stop people who deliberately seek to disable safety features on their drones?

      As for the 'think of the children' bits, again, registration has no effect, but the noise of a drone certainly does make people aware of its presence. If you're really that concerned, we should also ban camera phones, cameras and anyone who can paint recognisable images.

      A little bit of sense and context is needed here before we reach for the shotguns.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "So how exactly do you think registration is going to stop people who deliberately seek to disable safety features on their drones?"

        And for that matter, what are the odds of a drone pilot being to get their drone into the exact position needed to get it inside the engine? That's a very small "projectile" aiming for a pretty small target moving at 200+ MPH in 3D space where the pilot is likely not able to judge distances anywhere near accurately.

        It all rather reminds me of the Mythbusters episode where the tried to get two bullets to meet in mid-air. It's possible, but highly unlikely except under very tightly controlled conditions, and even then bloody difficult. It may happen by chance but the odds are against it unless the bad boy has a flock of drones fairly large and heavy drones.

  19. Milton Silver badge

    Polices the irresponsible, perhaps: not the wicked

    I can see this may minimise the idiot brigade who think it's clever to fly drones near airports. But we're all aware that it's easy to buy pretty much all the modularised tech needed to build your own fully functional drones and, furthermore, build them to your specific and possibly nefarious purposes. If you know how to build a timer-detonator circuit for a bomb (and not die) you're certainly capable of learning how to build your own drone.

    And that should be a worry. Because a big drone that needs to fly only for two or three minutes can carry a sizeable payload of explosives or even just ball bearings and shrapnel to instantly trash the rotating parts of a turbofan engine. This law won't necessarily stop evildoers who fancy flying their home-made drone straight into a jet's turbofan intake at 150 feet as it climbs away—something that *shouldn't* kill everyone on board but *would* create terror, fear, disruption and so on. Losing an engine, even with a contained failure, at full MTOW during climbout is not remotely funny, and a shrapnel-filled payload might even cause an uncontained failure: nightmare.

    It's our good fortune that today's "terrorists" are disaffected losers whose level of evil sophistication is restricted to driving 4x4s into crowds: what a technically capable one might achieve should frighten us all.

    To defeat that kind of smarter terrorist, we'll need a lot more joined-up thinking than "require every Joe Pleb to have a drone licence".

    1. IDoNotThinkSo

      Re: Polices the irresponsible, perhaps: not the wicked

      Flying into a plane engine deliberately would be very difficult, although not completely impossible.

      You are right though, none of the bad things can be stopped by technical rules or import bans as the technology is used everywhere.

      Maybe the idea is to add anyone to the monitoring list who buys drone parts without also having a licence, but given you could use a mobile phone as a flight controller with a suitable USB interface board, I'm not sure that will really help.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Polices the irresponsible, perhaps: not the wicked

        Flying into a plane engine deliberately would be very difficult, although not completely impossible.

        Depending on the type of weather system, air craft flying into Wellington airport fly along one of a few standard paths. They're on a straight-line approach in both direction and angle of descent. A few days observation gives you much of that information (I've had a few years of it myself).

        That gives me a "ballpark area" to position my drones (gotta have more than one - you can target more than one engine and maybe cause a major crash - bonus points if you can target both sides of the cockpit and knock out the crew).

        The engine itself is a fairly large target BUT has a fast closing speed. However if you're fairly well lined up in the plane's flight path already, it's probably fairly trivial to fly towards the plane and if your flight system, camera angle etc are good enough and the incoming plane doesn't suddenly change direction or angle of descent, you have an easy target. Suspend a small fishing sinker below your drone, instant death of engine (the speed the engine blades mode at, hitting something like a lump of lead will cause them to break without question)

        Thankfully while they're far enough out that a failure of both engines would be a big problem (ie to far out to glide in without power) they're probably high enough to reasonably be above all but the most expensive drones.

        An aircraft taking off, at an airport like Wellington, could be in a much worse situation. I've not spent much time near there so don't know how far down the runway the planes lift off from; is it possible that loss of all engines at the last moments on the runway (ie just as they reach take-off speed) mean they don't have sufficient braking distance to stop before they go over the end of the runway and into the Cook Straight or Wellington Harbour? What if you hit them a moment after launch? I think that'd be harder though as a 1/2 second earlier/later take off than you expect would mean a change of flight path by several metres, and of course a drone near enough to that area is going to be picked up and troops sent out to have a "friendly" word with the pilot.

        (I think of this stuff because a) I still have a very over-active imagination and b) watch too many movies. But I don't think the guys with the black helicopters circling overhead will necessarily believe that...)

  20. Milton Silver badge

    And about those ads

    About those ads, he said, veering wildly off topic—the next article which stimulates a shytestorm of criticism at the atrocious quality of internet advertising will include a fair number of sobbing "I told you so" lines from the commentardsphere: because the current Rackspace ad on this site, with its ghastly jerky-sliding faces and the saccharine copy "Look, our staff have actual names" is ... simply unspeakable. It is the perfect example of how woefully misguided online marketing can be.

    Boy, I hope Rackspace had to pay a LOT to manure our eyeballs with that crud.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: And about those ads

      About those ads, he said, veering wildly off topic

      Thanks. Given the post by one of El Reg's staff recently saying their ads are well behaved, I probably would've been turning adblockers off this weekend to give them a chance at some revenue from me.

      I guess I will have to wait a while before I risk that.

      Thanks for taking one for the team!

  21. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    All I see here is

    Whaa wha whaaaaa

    I'm a good driver(reasonably good anyway), I bother with insurance, I got advanced driver training (from the plod no less), taking the drone operators arguement: the government is being mean to me for enforcing a 30mph speed limit on my local road where I'm perfectly safe to drive at 80mph and as for the motorways... I can safely do 150mph.

    The laws aren't there for the responible drone operators, they are coming in for the complete dickheads who think it funny to take pictures through their neighbour's windows.. or want to get that crucial shot of a 747 landing at heathrow from above.....

    1. Haku

      Re: All I see here is

      Deaths by multirotors in the UK last year: 0

      Deaths by traffic accidents in the UK last year: 1,780

    2. blcollier

      Re: All I see here is

      Your analogy is flawed.

      You can drive your car but you can't go more than 40mph, and if you want to drive your car to work then you have to pay for a licence which is equal to or greater than the cost of the car. These new regulations are saying that you now have to carry separate registration documents when you drive your car (in addition to your licence to use your car for work purposes), you have to take another proficiency test, and your car can be confiscated if you don't carry your registration documents or you stray very slightly from ill-defined rules.

      Also, what that guy said: recorded deaths directly attributable to multirotors in the last year... Yeah, I'm sure you can read.

  22. Haku
    FAIL

    The police forces are already stretched enough as it is, and now they'll have to contend with a whole new sector of people doing illegal things.

    A lot of the public and police don't even know the correct laws regarding photography in public places, which has caused some problems for amateur & professional photographers who were following the law but got caught up in the incorrect perception of the law from do gooder public & police, how those same people will cope with drone laws is anybody's guess.

    And logistically how are they going to police the drone users who are out in the middle of nowhere, bothering nobody?

    1. PC Paul

      It is exactly the same principle as driving really. Drinig at 'appropriate speeds' will often allow you to break the rules completely unpunished because for massive speed to be appropriate you will already be certain nobody else is anywhere around to notice, or that it's something like the M4 with all lanes running at 90MPH so doing 70mph would actually reduce safety.

      If you're flying your drone out in the middle of nowhere with no airports/prisons/Motorways nearby then absolutely nobody will care what you do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "f you're flying your drone out in the middle of nowhere with no airports/prisons/Motorways nearby then absolutely nobody will care what you do."

        The draft bill for the Sexual Offences Act 2003 had a provision to make more convictions of "flashers" possible. It stipulated that a "victim" was to be considered a hypothetical most vulnerable person who could be alarmed or distressed - if they had been present. No one actually had to see the alleged flasher for an arrest and conviction on those criteria.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      how are they going to police the drone users who are out in the middle of nowhere, bothering nobody?

      If there is nobody around they wont. If you happen to be filming the police beating up some anti-hunting / anti-road protesters then they have a new law to stop you.

  23. Peter Galbavy
    FAIL

    The last consultation was laughing called something like "The Benefits to the UK ecomony" - while in fact it was just another Yes, Minister! style exercise in knowing the results before the inquiry starts. Rather than address any real problem the government - in actual fact in this case faceless uncivil servants - just kick out and say Regulate! without much thought to the actualy effectiveness of any regulation.

    Like others above have said, this just kills the legitimate marketplace and those who are either criminal or stupid will continue as the enforcement or the penalties for their existing malfeasence are already not much of a deterrent. New fliers who would form the part of any future profession are just going to move on to other things.

    To my mind there is no problem with a licensing scheme per se, but as usual it will be slow, expensive, restrictive and ultimately pointless.

    Finally, I did ask in my response to the consultation who or what gets registered (i.e. licensed) but they still have no clue. Do *I* register and then fly anything I like in my weight class or is each aircraft registered and then can be flown by anyone and/or what is an aircraft? Is it the body, the ESCs, the CPU? What happens to self-build and modular designs? What does this do for any nascent innovation in the UK?

    Dead Jim, it's dead.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, I'm sick of the almost weekly news reports of deaths an injuries caused by drones in the UK.

    About time something was done about it.

    1. CadManOne
      Joke

      Re: Well, I'm sick of the almost weekly news...

      Quite. I mean, just last month nearly 10000 people were killed due to drones and their operators. It's an epidemic!

      Oh.

      Wait.

      No, sorry, that was smokers. Drones didn't kill anyone...

  25. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Could someone remind me ...

    How many people have been killed/injured and how many aircraft have been damaged by drones in the past 5 years? I'm not talking about "drone incidents" where the drone in question may well have been a plastic bag caught in a thermal or a large bird seen out of the corner of a pilot's eye.

    Contrast with the number of deaths/injuries/damage caused by unlicensed and unregistered bicycles.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have to admit I fail to see how this would work in practice. For a start, what is a drone? No one seems to have a solid definition for that. If you mean 'multirotor aircraft' that's one thing, if you mean 'potentially autonomous aircraft' that's something else again and if you mean 'remote controlled or piloted aircraft' you're talking about yet another thing.

    I've been flying, designing, and building radio controlled model aircraft, from electronics to airframes, for over thirty years, and I couldn't tell you myself what a 'Drone' was with any degree of certainty.

    Another thing is, as has been said, what would this putative registration actually involve, and what would be registered? If it was the pilot, along the lines of BMFA insurance, that's one thing. Annoying but technically doable. On the other hand, if it's the aircraft, it becomes completely daft and probably entirely unworkable. For example, I have something like forty-five different aircraft in the shed at the moment! They range the entire gamut from fixed wing through helicopters to multi-rotors. Ducted fans, propellor drive, and one turbine engine. Gliders, sports aircraft, you name it. Most of them have no onboard electronics other than the receivers and servos, while a few go all the way up to completely autonomous.

    Would I register the multirotors? The computer-controlled aircraft regardless of type? All of them?

    Even if it's just the multirotors, it's a huge number of things for the CAA to keep track of. If it's all of them it's ridiculous. Just the pilots would be a massive increase in their workload, there are something like 36000 BMFA members alone in the UK, which is something like close to twice the number of private aircraft of all other types registered as far as I'm aware, and that doesn't include all the people who AREN'T BMFA members. Multiply that by N models per member and it could easily end up in the hundred of thousands of registrations.

    I'm not entirely certain they've thought this through...

    Also, on the subject of altitude, the ANO (which is the law part of things) and CAP658 (which is the part of it relevant to model aircraft of all types and the interpretation of the law) don't actually cap altitude at 400 feet, UNLESS the aircraft is over 7kg all up weight not including fuel. If you're within controlled airspace this can and will change, but if you're in controlled airspace you may well not be able to fly anyway without permission from the controller of that airspace depending on the type. The Drone Code is, as far as I can find out, not legally binding, although some aspects of it are. The altitude isn't. It's an advisory thing to promote sensible flying amongst people who came into the hobby from the direction of 'Flying Camera! Yay!' rather than via RC model aircraft where you might be expected to know the real rules and regulations.

    Unfortunately, the kid who gets a flying toy under the christmas tree probably won't read the code, or care anyway. And that's where the problem comes from. The laws already exist to prevent much of what the politicians want to stop, they're just not enforced very well, or for that matter, enforcable. Adding yet MORE laws that meet this definition doesn't seem helpful.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      If this comes into force, then in a short time a drone will be anything the police want to call a drone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "If this comes into force, then in a short time a drone will be anything the police want to call a drone."

        A retired policeman had a catch-phrase for the wording of a new bill liked by the police. A "Martini" law - "Anyone, any time, any place".

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You need a licence / insurance to drive a road vehicle because the road is a shared space where you can potentially collide with other road users. Existing UK regulations mean non-commercial drones should not be operated near people (without consent) nor in an airspace shared with aircraft (carrying people). If people follow the current rules drones should not present a danger to anyone except other drones. What's needed is a means to better enforce the current laws, and detect / intercept illegal drone use in some areas.

    If you charge a licence / insurance fee to non-commercial drone users that will kill the hobby and deter interest in the technology which will impact the UK's future competitiveness in this area, At the very least, flying drones over private land with the land owner's permission should be permitted without any licence.

    An app / website to clarify the whereabouts of restricted airspaces is a good idea, but to expect all existing (non new) GPS drones to be integrated with this app is not going to happen. What's needed is a standard data format (like XML) for geofencing data that governments can publish and all GPS drone makers can support importing to their proprietary controller software.

    If the authorities want the power to enforce temporary no fly zones at some events, fair enough. Perhaps the converse should be to define some permissive areas for drone users well away from flight paths, allowing flight >400ft altitude?

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      "

      You need a licence / insurance to drive a road vehicle because the road is a shared space where you can potentially collide with other road users.

      "

      That statement is incorrect. My 6 year old is permitted to ride a bicycle on the road with neither a licence nor insurance. One wobble causing a bus to swerve into a shop ...

  28. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So, in Blighty, what's the difference between an "RC model aircraft" and a "drone" as far as this goes? Is there a legal definition? I could build a model of a Fokker and add cameras, etc. and have basically the same capability as a drone. So one (the drone) gets regulated with assorted licenses and restrictions. Are there the same licenses required for model aircraft over there in Blighty?

    Sidenote: Quarter Scale is a huge model. I wouldn't want one buzzing my house but they are incredible to see fly.

  29. Paul 129

    Makes sense

    Gotta register my dog. Big fines when it gets out

    Gotta register my cat. (Some ares of my state cats are banned) they kill local wildlife.

    Gotta register my car, (could kill people). Gotta register my wife (umm,... ok?). Gotta register my kids (Now these are dangerous). Gotta register my cows (tracking of stuff that potentially could be on sale for human consumption), gotta register my sheep(see cows). Phone (LOL, essentially registered)

    Hell, quite a lot of software, and its growing.

  30. Quark

    What is a drone?

    Is there a published definition of what a drone is? It cant just be "anything over 250 grams".

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