Hobbyist drone owners in the U.K. will have to register their flying machines and sit through a test to show they understand basic air safety rules, the British government announced on Saturday.
As is the case in the U.S. and other countries, remotely operated copters have been selling in ever-larger numbers in recent years. Mirroring the rise in popularity has been an increase in reports of rogue drone flights in designated no-fly zones such as airports and prisons. The government believes its registry will help to improve accountability and encourage owners to fly their drones in a responsible manner.
Anyone with a drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) will have to add their personal details to a database, though no date has yet been announced for when the registry will launch.
The government said it’s planning to release an app to aid the registration process, adding that owners will also have to sit a “safety awareness test” to show that they understand British air safety, security, and privacy regulations.
There are also plans to increase the use of geo-fencing, which uses GPS coordinates to create a kind of invisible shield around locations where drone flights are banned.
Aviation minister Lord Callanan said the new measures would “prioritize protecting the public while maximizing the full potential of drones.”
The minister said that drones are increasingly “proving vital for inspecting transport infrastructure for repair or aiding police and fire services in search and rescue operations, even helping to save lives,” adding, “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.”
Drone-related complaints in the U.K. reached 3,456 in 2016, nearly three times more than the number logged just a year earlier, the Press Association reported recently.
Misdemeanors ranged from people using drones to spy on neighbors, to near-misses with passenger planes flying into and out of major airports in the country, with 59 such cases reported in the last 12 months alone.
In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched a similar database for hobbyist drone owners in December 2015, but new registrations were suspended in May after a Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals ruling affirmed a lower court ruling in 2016 that said the FAA didn’t have the power to make rules regarding model aircraft use.
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