The UK government is mulling introducing drone registration and safety awareness courses for owners of the small unmanned aircraft in a bid to stop its misuse and protect the public, a media report said today. The decision came in the backdrop of several reports of passenger jets being involved in near-miss incidents with drones in the UK. According to the Department of Transport, registration will be mandated for owners of drones weighing more than 250 grams, the BBC reported. The drone safety awareness test will involve potential flyers having to “prove that they understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations”, it said. There is no time frame or firm plans as to how the new rules will be enforced and the department admitted that “the nuts and bolts still have to be ironed out”. The plans also include the extension of geo-fencing, in which no-fly zones are programmed into drones using GPS co- ordinates, around areas such as prisons and airports, it said. Aviation Minister Lord Martin Callanan said: “Our measures prioritise protecting the public while maximising the full potential of drones”. “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 and introducing safety awareness tests to educate users, we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public,” he said. In the US, similar registration rules in March were successfully challenged in court and as a result, they are not applicable to non-commercial flyers, the report said.
In November last year, a passenger jet approaching Heathrow Airport was involved in a near-miss incident with two drones, the first such recorded instance in the UK. Scotland Yard was informed after the incident, but the drones’ operators were not found. Authorities said that the incident had “compromised the safety of the aircraft”.
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According to reports, there have been five near-misses between aircraft and drones in March, bringing the total number to 62 over the past 12 months. Under the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority rules, drones must not be flown above 400 feet or near airports or airfields.
Last year, more than 3,456 incidents involving drones were recorded, compared to only 1,237 in 2015. The incidents include invasions of privacy, disputes between neighbours and prison smuggling.