U.K. cops dealing with sharp rise in drone-related incidents

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may be fretting about the imminent launch of a million new drones this Christmas, but a report out of the U.K. this week highlights how the challenge posed by remotely controlled copters is a growing one faced by governments around the world.

British police say they’ve seen a spike in drone-related incidents over the last year as ownership grows and hobbyists experiment with different ways of using their new toy. A wide range of cases brought to its attention recently include an operator flying a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) over London’s busy Hyde Park for a promotional video, another of a UAV distracting drivers as it hovered over a road junction, and a case where a drone owner was apparently trying to use their machine to take photos of someone sunbathing in their yard.

The information was obtained by the Guardian following a Freedom of Information request and reflects concerns that not enough is being done to make new owners aware of the current regulations.

One police department said it’d already received 80 reports of drone-related incidents this year, while in the whole of 2014 only 21 cases were logged. London’s Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, has so far recorded 21 incidents in 2015, while last year it received only one complaint.

Another complaint logged by cops occurred over the summer and involved a drone that’d been “hanging around” for several months and “freaking people out and invading people’s privacy,” according to the person that reported the incident.

Just last month a drone enthusiast reportedly became the first person in the U.K. to face a criminal prosecution for improper drone use. Nigel Wilson was fined £1,800 ($2,760) for flying his DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ over Premiership soccer matches, as well as Buckingham Palace and other famous spots in London.

The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority – equivalent to America’s FAA – earlier this year released a video (above) telling drone users how to enjoy their machines while staying within existing laws. As you might expect, the rules aren’t so different to those laid out by the FAA, including keeping the copter within sight at all times, and using it well away from places such as sports stadiums and airports. It also warns users to think carefully about what they do with footage or images captured by on-board cameras or risk breaching privacy laws.

Reflecting the growing popularity of quadcopters and similar remotely controlled flying machines, the U.K. is gearing up for its biggest ever drone show, taking place in Birmingham on December 5 and 6.