The laws for drones are changing – This is what you need to know!

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As drones are playing a more important role in everyday life, including, the speeding up of deliveries, such as blood transfusions; increased safety by replacing people when inspecting nuclear power stations; deliveries; filming; construction or rail safety inspections to name but a few. Therefore, security, safety and regulation changes were inevitable, despite being slow to come into fruition.

This new approach comes after near misses of drones were reported at Luton and Gatwick airports, placing lives genuinely at serious risk. In 2017, there were 93 reported drone incidents involving aircrafts alone, whilst general security breaches were on the rise.

Recent papers report Chris Woodroofe, Chief Operating Officer at Gatwick Airport, saying:

“We welcome the clarity that the announcement provides as it leaves no doubt that anyone flying a drone must stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields. Drones open-up some exciting possibilities but must be used responsibly. These clear regulations, combined with new surveillance technology, will help the police apprehend and prosecute anyone endangering the travelling public”.

New regulations for drone usage in the UK which were put into place on the 30th July, making an amendment to the Air Navigation Order (2016). These rules mean that drones cannot fly above 400 feet (120m) or with in a kilometre radius of airport boundaries.

The incoming provisions will require owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register them with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and they will be required to take an online safety test. These requirements will come into force on the 30th November 2019.

Drone operators who ignore the new height and airport boundary restrictions could be charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a way which could endanger an aircraft and any person on that aircraft. This could result in an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both. In addition, the users who fail to register their drones or sit the competency tests could face fines of up to £1,000.

It is hoped that this will be a sufficient deterrent, however, many also welcome the enforcement rules whereby intervention is required if these rules are ignored.

Furthermore, the new drone safety awareness tests mean owners will have to prove that they understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations, this means the responsibility to safely use the devices lies with them. This then opens up the potential for insurance and tighter restrictions in a hope that, without insurance and assessments, people who are not prepared to operate drones carefully will not be able to.

Later developments, yet to be announced, will also include immediate intervention if a drone operator fails to follow the rules.  As such, if a drone pilot is suspected of flying unsafely or carrying out any illegal activities with their drone, police will have powers to ground the drone and seize it and any memory cards as evidence.

For non-commercial users, the current rules and regulations must still be obliged:

  1. Keep your drone in sight
  2. Stay 150 ft away from people and buildings if your drone is equipped with a camera
  3. Keep 500 ft away from crowds and/or built up areas if your drone is equipped with a camera
  4. Avoid flying over or 150 ft near to open areas with more than 1,000 people present
  5. Adhere to their local council’s rules about drone flights in the area
  6. Only fly their drones as and when it is safe to do so
  7. Understand your GDPR requirements too as this is a separate issue that also needs to be considered

If you are a commercial user you must understand the laws that are in place and have a policy which outlines a risk assessment/plan. It is also important to monitor employee compliance, have insurance in place and monitor GDPR requirements.

In addition to the new drone laws, the government also plans to expand the use of ‘geo-fencing’ in the UK, which is an invisible shield around buildings or sensitive areas like prisons and airports. This technology works on GPS coordinates, so can be built into a drone and stop it from entering these zones. It is thought drone operators will be told to use apps to plan their flights to ensure they are not entering unsafe or no-fly zones, which will also be visible to other drone users.

How will the new drone laws directly impact people at work?

As part of these new regulations and increased usage of Drones, not only will the public be impacted, but so will employees and agents in the work place.

There is going to be an increased (and ever-growing) need for specialist training and skills, especially now that risk assessments and insurance policies will come into play. Those operating drones will need training and employers should be able to evidence this has been provided. They must also ensure their teams have the relevant skills and are being regularly monitored and tested. Employer’s should have clear policies on who can operate drones, under what conditions and when employees should report GDPR breaches or other wrong doings. This will impact of the employer’s risk assessment and therefore their duties to the public, staff and clients. Furthermore, any issues could have an impact on insurance costs.

Similarly, this additional training will create a challenge for employees to become more skilled and receive the training to become a drone operator. This may also increase the desire for higher salaries.

The benefits of using drones in the workplace could be that there is an increase in safety. For example, the use of drones in job site inspection could eliminate the common dangers and safety hazards which may substantially reduce workplace accidents. This could ultimately make the workplace a much safer environment for employees. This would be especially key in the construction sector, for example, those scaling heights for photos or visual repairs.

There is also talk of the economic impact:  billion-pound growth margins are expected due to the increased efficiency. There is also the potential for new jobs to be created (primarily in manufacturing) for the production of drones, operation and training roles to name but a few.

The new laws are evolving with the technology, so it is important to be prepared.

 

 

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About Karen Holden

Karen Holden is a solicitor & the founder of A City Law Firm, a listed Legal 500 firm in the City. It has won several awards for its innovation, business practices and unique areas of law. The firm handles exciting tech law: drone & block chain, surrogacy and LGBT work, through to starting-up-scaling-up businesses and getting them ready for investment or sale. Karen set up the firm on her own 10 years ago and whilst juggling a family has raised this from nothing to a sizable and dynamic firm. She is a female and mum entrepreneur that ensures her practice is friendly , diverse & all staff are afforded a work life balance.

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