Drone Users are *This* Close to Having to Pass an Online Pilot Proficiency Test

By Tom Pritchard on at

It's no secret that the government has it in for drones, or rather the people who think they can fly drones wherever they like and leave chaos in their wake. It's been gunning for there to be some sort of proficiency test for would-be drone pilots to make sure they understand how to use them safely. Well today the government has announced a bunch of new rules that will crack down on reckless drone flight.

These plans have been in the works for quite some time, and Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg has been clear about the need for such tests - particularly since idiots are keen to fly their drones into planes regardless of the consequences. The rules themselves will be presented to the House of Commons later today, as part of an amendment to the Air Navigation order (2016).

The new regulations apply to all drones (and similar flying gizmos) that weigh more than 250 grams. Any drone over that weight will need to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, though the weight limit means most novelty or toy aircraft will be exempt from the rules. Serious flying machines, particularly those with cameras, are unlikely to be so light. Those rules, along with an online safety test (think a driving theory test for drones) will come into effect on 30th November next year.

Rules will also take CAA guidelines and make them proper laws, including a kilometre no-drone-zone around airports, and a ban on any drone flying more than 400 feet high. Anyone who breaks these rules will be subject to up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine. Failure to register a drone weighing more than 250 grams, or take part in the safety test, will also lead to a £1,000 fine. These rules will be active much sooner, from 30th July.

Drone maker DJI, which previous introduced a number of safety features to its drones, including a mandatory 'knowledge test' in the UK, has welcomed the new rules, with DJI Head of Public Policy Europe Christian Struwe saying:

“The Department for Transport’s updates to the regulatory framework strike a sensible balance between protecting public safety and bringing the benefits of drone technology to British businesses and the public at large. The vast majority of drone pilots fly safely and responsibly, and governments, aviation authorities and drone manufacturers agree we need to work together to ensure all drone pilots know basic safety rules. We are therefore particularly pleased about the Department for Transport’s commitment to accessible online testing as a way of helping drone users to comply with the law.”

On top of this the government has plans to publish a draft Drones Bill sometime this summer, which will give police more powers to confiscate drones from reckless users on the spot. We've heard mention of those plans in the past, but for now we'll just have to wait and see what the government has planned. [Gov.uk via BBC News]