Currently, there are no drone age restrictions in UK legislation with regards to drone use for leisure purposes, but the CAA does have a minimum age requirement of 18 for users to be eligible to apply for permission to operate their drone commercially. Therefore, as it stands a child could legally own and fly any size of drone for fun and this gives many cause for concern especially as research has shown that drones weighing 400g could smash a helicopter windscreen in a mid-air collision.
The new recommendation, which would see under 18s banned from owning heavier drones, is part of a series of proposals designed to allay public fears over snooping, dangerous drone operators and near misses with manned aircraft.
If approved, the recommendation would become part of a draft drone bill. A consultation on the proposals is now underway, with the Bill due to be published later this year.
Other Proposed Drone Bill measures include:
- Police issuing fixed penalty notices to those disregarding drone rules
- Using new counter-drone technology to protect public events and critical national infrastructure and stop contraband from reaching prisons
- Introducing minimum drone age restrictions for owners in addition to the new tests they will need to take
- Proposals for regulating and mandating the use of ‘apps’ on which pilots would file flight plans ahead of take-off
Children Should Be Supervised While Using Drones
While age is not an indicator of competence, one of the reasons for the age limit is that many insurance policies are not accessible to those under the age of 18. However, the consultation suggests that under-18s could use such drones provided they are supervised by an older individual.
Additionally, larger drones can do significantly more damage. As drones have become more popular so too has the number of drone incidents caused by both individuals who knowingly flout the law and those who are ignorant of the drone regulations.
Often there is a public misconception that drones are harmless toys, but this perception neglects to consider the potential drones have to cause injury to the operator and to others.
Ban Could Turn Kids Off Drones
Gavin Wishart, The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, is afraid such measures would deter kids from drones saying: “We’ve got to promote the safe and responsible use of drones, but children are the future of the drone world, so it’s also important they can have access to drones and use them,”
“What the government should also be looking at is promoting the safe use of drones by bringing in areas where people can fly them safely, as it can be difficult to find areas in the UK because of things like airspace restrictions and the number of people around.
“The drone industry is expected to be a large part of the economy going forward so you don’t want to stop kids from exploring that.”
This scenario, however, seems unlikely since the ban is easy-enough to circumnavigate legally with adult supervision. Given that drones can seriously injure the operator, supervision is probably a good idea anyway. Furthermore, it only prevents them from owning the drone, so, the parent or someone older can simply buy and register the drone.
Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg, who recognises the benefits of drones to society and the UK said that it was vital to stop people misusing drones and doing harm so that the development and use of drones is not hindered.
Christian Scheel Struwe, European public policy chief at DJI, the world’s bestselling drone manufacturer commented: “DJI supports measures to deal properly with the small number of people who intentionally misuse this technology.
“Governments, aviation authorities and drone manufacturers are working together to help ensure drone pilots understand rules and regulations, and this cooperative spirit is making the UK safe for drone operations.”
The Aerial Academy’s Jonathan Carter said: “Drones may look nice, but they can go out of control. It’s good to see more clarification and they’re sensible changes.”