The UK's Department for Transport has announced plans to mandate registration and safety testing for all multirotor drone users in the nation, while also promising to expand the use of geofencing to prevent flight over particular areas.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] is nothing new, but their accessibility and affordability is increasing at a near-geometric rate. Hobbyists can find low-cost multirotor drones for direct control well below the triple-figure mark, and even models with integrated autopilots and high-resolution cameras can be purchased without heading into four figures. Their increased usage, however, has the government concerned, and to address those concerns the Department for Transport has announced plans to require mandatory safety training and registration of all drones 250g or above in unladen weight.

'The UK is at the forefront of an exciting and fast growing drones market and it is important we make the most of this emerging global sector. Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones,' claimed aviation minister Lord Callanan at the announcement of the rules this weekend. '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.'

The rules would require from all owners the mandatory registration of all drones weighing 250g or more along with attendance of what the government describes as a 'drone safety awareness test [to] prove that they understand UK safety, security, and privacy regulations.' They would also go hand-in-hand with extended geofencing, which requires manufacturers to hard-code selected locations into the firmware of their drones which the drone will then refuse to fly over - including, but not limited to, prisons and airports.

Thus far, the Department for Transport has not indicated when the rules would enter law, with claims it is still investigating how best they might be implemented. The announcement comes following a report from the Department for Transport with the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) and the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) which claimed drones of 400g or more could damage the windscreens of helicopters in flight, and drones of 2kg or more the windscreens of commercial airliners.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04