Safety warning over Christmas drone craze as numbers in skies set to almost double
lying safety officials have raised concerns about a surge in drones this Christmas, warning that families are clueless about the strict laws governing their use.
The Civil Aviation Agency said the flying gadgets had become one of the most wanted gifts under the tree this year, claiming 1.5 million more could enter British airspace following the festive period, in addition to the two million bought in recent years.
It is telling shoppers to buy drones from “responsible” retailers that will make sure it comes with a copy of the CAA’s rules.
It comes after research, conducted by the regulator, found that a quarter of those planning to buy a drone over the Christmas period were unaware of the rules surrounding their usage.
Drone users must follow the rules laid out in the CAA’s Dronecode.
Thousands of lives are being put at risk by drone enthusiasts flying drones near aircraft CREDIT: ANDREW MATTHEWS
Fledgling pilots can operate a drone without a license unless it is for commercial purposes, but there are strict restrictions on height and location.
This includes keeping vehicles below 400ft and they must always remain 150ft away from people or buildings. Anyone found guilty of endangering an aircraft faces up to five years in prison.
“Retailers are claiming that drones are going to be hugely popular this year but households are not aware of the rules and could be putting themselves and other people at risk,” said Jonathan Nicholson, assistant director of communications at the CAA.
“Anyone can buy a drone in a high-street shop. By the time the battery is charged, you could be flying it outside. They might be great fun, but they come with great responsibility.
“If you are a parent or grandparent buying a drone this Christmas, buy one from a quality retailer that gives you the right advice and guidance.”
“As one of the most popular purchases this Christmas, it is vital that we continue to provide the best possible advice and guidance for our customers, to ensure they can enjoy flying their new purchases safely,” added Andrew Uden, Technical Director at Maplin.
The must-have gifts are considered a safety risk that could potentially put thousands of passengers in danger following reports from several pilots who experienced near-misses with drones around British airports.
One “put 130 lives at risk” after it nearly hit an aeroplane approaching London Gatwick airport in July this year.
It was just one of 99 reported incidents so far compared to 62 in 2016 and 29 in 2015, causing ministers to consider mandatory drone tests for amateur pilots.
Mr Nicholson also warned of the perils of inadvertently intruding on strangers’ privacy while operating drones.
“There are concerns about where and who you might be filming if the drone has a camera,” he said.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said drones with cameras could be covered by the data protection act. Official guidance on the website states: “If you are recording images beyond your home, a drone may intrude on the privacy of others where they expect their privacy to be respected (such as in their back garden).”