Drones Bill on the way

January 8, 2019

A draft Drones Bill, giving public powers to request information from drone users and to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for minor offences is to be brought forward in 2019.

The proposals in the Bill were the subject of a consultation last year and the results of that exercise have just been published confirming that the legislation will go ahead. If passed, the Bill will give the police, in short and subject to certain caveats, powers to 

  • require the production of evidence such as drone operator registration or an acknowledgment of a remote operator’s competency
  • obtain information such as the names and addresses of the registered drone operator and/or remote pilot believed to be in charge of the drone
  • where the identity of the drone operator is not provided, obtain the name and address of the person who made the drone available for use by the remote pilot
  • require a remote pilot to land a drone in specific established offence circumstances; 
  • enter / search premises, with a warrant, where there is reasonable suspicion that there a drone has been involved in an offence;
  • seize and retain a drone which the police reasonably suspect has used to commit an offence 
  • access information stored electronically on a seized drone which may have been involved in an offence and it is necessary to do so in order to prevent it being concealed, lost, tampered with or destroyed. 
  • require that information stored in electronic form on a drone to be produced in a visible and legible form

Alongside these powers the police will have powers to impose FPNs on drone operators refusing to comply with some of these requests and for some Air Navigation Order offences, such as flying a small drone with a camera within 50m of people.  

The consultation also sought views on other matters such as the optimal radius for a no-fly zone for drones around airports, which is particularly topical given the events at Gatwick over Christmas 2018. There was a strong consensus from airports and airlines that the current 1km radius is inadequate as it does not extend far enough to fully ensure that manned aircraft do not come within close proximity to a drone if the drone is flying at the maximum 400ft, particularly along landing and take-off paths. To account for this, a rectangular exclusion zone of 5km and 1km wide along a runway will be introduced.

It is interesting to note that the consultation received over 5,000 responses, 3,800 of which were from individuals who used drones for leisure or were model aircraft flyers. The impact of these individuals was reflected in exemptions from some of the regulations to be granted to members of qualifying model aircraft flying associations.

The full response, which also touches on the use of counter-drone technology, can be found on the DoT website