The laws regarding drones are being updated very rapidly, as the use of drones has spread dramatically over the last couple of years. It was only at the end of July last year that the government made it illegal to fly a drone above 400 feet or within 1km of an airport. After the issues at Heathrow and Gatwick, the 1km rule was very quickly changed to 5km. That now includes a width of 1km, so it is forbidden to fly a drone anywhere in an area of 1km wide and 5km from the end of a runway.
Consumer drones – which are drones weighing less than 20kg must also be kept at least 50 metres from people and private property and at least 150 metres away from congested areas and organised open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 people.
Flying your drone above 400 feet can result in you being charged with “recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft” and facing a fine of up to £2,500 or up to five years in prison.
Furthermore, from the end of November 2019, any operator of a drone is required to register it with the Civil Aviation Authority and also take a safety test online. Failing to register or sit the test can attract a fine of up to £1,000. Registration is currently proposed to cost £16.50.
In addition, the government is to have the Home Office testing and evaluating the safe use of counter-drone technology, such as the SkyPatriot produced by us at Rinicom which detects drones from several kilometres away and also can identify the type, make, and model of drone detected. SkyPatriot can also distinguish drones from birds, clouds, and even tree branches swaying about in the wind. In addition, SkyPatriot records images, video, and telemetry data.
What about using a drone jamming device if one flies over your property or seems to be heading your way? The short answer is that it is presently illegal to use such a thing, although there are several ways in which one can be operated. Frequency jamming is one option. An AUDS (Anti-UAV Defence System) scans the skies for drones and jams their control signals.
In the Netherlands the police use trained birds! Yes, they have trained eagles to intercept and catch drones and take them all the way back to the trainer! (Obviously, they can only catch small drones).