Drones in the UK

July 13, 2015 4:15 PM
The advance of technology has naturally brought devices that were originally too expensive or specialised into the hands of the public. Over the past decade there have been vast developments in the world of UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) resulting in technologies like quadcopters landing in the public’s hands as components become cheaper and easier to produce. Firstly it might be appropriate to explain there is a difference between a quadcopter and a drone. A quadcopter is a controllable aerial vehicle, while a drone has components that allow it to be autonomous such as a GPS that then makes it fully programmable and does not necessarily require a human controller. Issues in the US have resulted in a grand eruption of lawsuits so legislation has to be created to define the limits and usage of UAV’s over American soil. Luckily in the UK this debate hasn’t yet opened but there is potential if users of UAV’s do not exercise an educated employment of these innovative devices.
Quadcopter 1The first and latest UK news article of official bodies have stepped in as a result of quadcopter use has raised issues of where a UAV can be flown. The article in question explains that an employee of a electronics retailer decided to get a quadcopter out of the package to show a customer how it works. The employee in question then flew the quadcopter over the adjacent car park and it drifted slightly over the main road. Most instances of flying in urban environments are generally overlooked as most quadcopters and drones are too small for the casual passer by. The major mistake this gentleman made was turning the onboard camera on and recording the demonstration. This then hit the web and suddenly was condemned by the local council as misuse and subsequent investigation. As UAV’s become more popular and sophisticated their use in urban situations will increase but it seems that it will be limited to official organisations that claim a greater need for them. In the US a state police department bought a fleet of high tech drones for use in catching criminals, currently they cannot use said fleet as laws prohibit the use of recording technology such as this to provide convictable evidence due to the lack of consent when being filmed.
Many drone enthusiasts now have the ability to produce DIY drones that can weigh over 25Kg and a wingspan of at least 1 meter. Equipment like this obviously requires delicate use, and also restricts where they can be flown. Currently a UAV has to remain within 50m of the controller, and at least 500m from habitable ground. Any UAV weighing over 25Kg can only be flown in very specific airspace in the UK, other UAV’s can be flown in empty areas thus reducing the risk to the general public and casual papasser-by

The best advice that can be given for the enthusiast that wants to start flying quadcopters and drones is to stay away from built up areas, stay away from pedestrians and don’t be silly. In the past couple of months there have been many drone attacks by the US public where they have identified a UAV that they assume is being controlled by sinister authorities. There is quite an uproar since the Snowden events about public and private security and UAVs are being treated with a large amount of distrust. It is easy to foresee that in the near distant future that UAVs will be employed on a regular basis due to the advantages that can be employed. It looks like there are many arguments to be fought through till they are common place and the enjoyment of UAV’s will be dependent on the actions of users making sensible choices about how they are used or things will get complicated very quickly.