Drones weighing 250g and over will have to be registered and their users will have to sit safety tests. The aim is to improve accountability and encourage owners to act responsibly.
Users may be able to register online or through apps, under plans being explored by the government. In addition, a new drone safety awareness test means owners will have to prove that they understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations.
The government also plans to bring forward and expand the use of ‘geo-fencing’ in the UK that acts like an invisible shield around buildings or sensitive areas. The technology, which works on GPS coordinates, is built into the drone and stops it from entering zones such as prison or airport space.
The government said that drones represent an exciting opportunity for the UK, are already of substantial benefit to business and the public and are central to the government’s industrial strategy.
Aviation Minister Lord Callanan said: “Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones. Increasingly, drones are proving vital for inspecting transport infrastructure for repair or aiding police and fire services in search and rescue operations, even helping to save lives. But like all technology, drones too can be misused. By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”
Themeasures come after a consultation looking at ways to make drone use safer while maximising their potential.
Findings by the Department for Transport (DfT), British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) and the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) - published on Saturday in a summary report - reveal drones weighing 400g could damage the windscreens of helicopters in particular. However, airliner windscreens were found to be much more resistant. It would take a heavier drone of around 2kg kilograms to critically damage an airliner windscreen, and only if the airliner is flying at a high speed; not during take-off and landing.
The government worked with the CAA to develop a new drone code launched last year which has six key principles, including always keep your drone in sight, staying below 400 feet and staying well away from aircraft, airports and airfields.