Government Publishes Consultation on the Safe Use of Drones in the UK

The Department for Transport (DfT) has now published the outcome of their consultation on the safe use of drones in the UK.  The document can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/631638/unlocking-the-uks-high-tech-economy-consultation-on-the-safe-use-of-drones-in-the-uk-government-response.pdf

The document has evidently caused some concern within the model flying community and has set some ‘hares running’.  As such, I thought that it would be useful to comment on the DfT publication and clarify the situation.

The DfT document sets out their thoughts on the basic plan for the future regulation of unmanned aircraft in the UK.  However, the details of how any new regulations will be developed and implemented are still to be negotiated which will take some time, so nothing will happen instantly.

The DfT proposals generally align with those developed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  The general principle is that (for those operating outside the framework of an established model flying association) the regulations for unmanned aircraft will be more restrictive than those currently in place with additional requirements for training, registration and a 400ft/120m height limit.  This is comparable with the ‘Open Category’ requirements proposed by EASA.

Within the EASA proposals, established model flying associations would operate within the ‘Specific Category’ under an authorisation granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which would essentially allow us to operate as we do today.  The DfT’s proposals do not change this.  Essentially, the CAA would issue us with an authorisation (or exemption) defining our agreed operating parameters which would reflect how we operate today (including operations above 400ft/120m).

In terms of registration requirements, we maintain the position that membership of one of the UK’s established model flying associations provides an appropriate form of ‘registration’ and the DfT/CAA remain amenable to this option as referred to in the publication:

“The Government will work with model aircraft flying clubs to examine ways in which it may be possible to exempt members of model aircraft flying clubs with adequate safety cultures and practices from certain elements of registration and other educational requirements, or where their club will be permitted to undertake regulatory requirements on their behalf. Flyers of model aircraft who are not members of a club, or are members of a club not deemed to have adequate standards will, however, not be excluded from registration or other requirements.”

Negotiations are continuing with the DfT/CAA on a positive basis, to try and ensure that we are allowed to operate largely as we do today and keep the impact of regulations written principally to deal with the ‘drone issue’ to a minimum for UK model flyers. 

Dave Phipps

CEO

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