Government Publishes its Response to the Consultation on the Future of Drones in the UK

The Department for Transport has published the Government’s response to the public consultation on the Future of Drones in the UK.  There were 5061 responses to the consultation with 1947 respondents identifying themselves as ‘model flyers’ and 2310 identifying themselves as ‘using drones for leisure’.

Several members have suggested that the publication is a knee jerk reaction to the recent issues reported at Gatwick and whilst the Aviation Minister does make reference to Gatwick, the content primarily relates to the public consultation which closed in September 2018.

The Government’s response can be found in full here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/769135/future-of-drones-in-uk-consultation-response-print.pdf

The document shows that the government has taken note of the points raised by model flyers and their Associations and this is in part due to the significant numbers of modellers who responded to the consultation to whom we offer our thanks.

The document also refers to the ongoing negotiations between the Government and the UK Model Flying Associations in terms of the registration and competency requirements introduced into the Air Navigation Order last summer, which will come into effect in November this year.  There is little news to report on this at present, but we will issue further updates as negotiations progress.

The only ‘surprise’ contained within the response is the proposal to increase the exclusion zone around ‘Protected Aerodromes’ beyond the current 1Km from the boundary to a radius of 4.6Km from the centre of the runway. This is increased to 5Km measured from the runway ends on the extended runway centre line with a width of 1km.  See the diagram below.

Exclusion zone proposal

For a list of ‘Protected Aerodromes’ please see: (http://www.nats-uk.ead-it.com/public/index.php%3Foption=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=6&Itemid=13.html.)

The intent of this proposal is not to impose an outright ban but to introduce a ‘restriction’ which can be overcome through suitable liaison/procedures/agreement with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) at the aerodrome.  There are existing restrictions on flying unmanned aircraft exceeding 7Kg within an Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ) without agreement from the ATC, but when this proposal is formalised in law (by a change to the Air Navigation Order which is likely to take several months), that restriction will apply to all unmanned aircraft with a mass of more than 250g operating within the new boundary.  

Members/Clubs intending to operate within the ‘Exclusion Zone’ will have to have an agreement with the local ATC.  We will of course keep members posted on when this new rule is likely to come into force and any BMFA-affiliated clubs that expect to be affected by this change are welcome to contact BMFA HQ for advice.

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