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Draft Drone Bill to hand police powers to tackle unsafe and criminal use

A draft Drone Bill, to be published in spring 2018, will hand the police new powers to prevent the unsafe or criminal use of drones, the Government has announced.

The measures are “intended to allow drone users to continue flying safely and legally, helping to place the UK at the forefront of the fast-growing drone industry”.

The Government said this would “also pave the way for the devices to be harnessed for a range of uses by businesses and public services”.

Under the Bill, police officers would have the right to order operators to ground drones where necessary. They will also be able to seize drone parts to prove it has been used to commit an offence.

New measures will also make it mandatory for drone owners to register to improve accountability. Drone operators will meanwhile be required to use apps – "so they can access the information needed to make sure any planned flight can be made safely and legally".

Banning all drones from flying above 400 feet or near airports could also form part of the new regulations, the Government said.

It will publish the draft Drone Bill for consultation and introduce secondary legislation amendments in spring 2018. Changes to the Air Navigation Order will mean that that means:

  • drone users will have to sit safety awareness tests;
  • users of drones weighing 250 grams and over will in future have to be registered.

The Government said it was also working closely with drone manufacturers to use geo-fencing to prevent drones from entering restricted zones.

Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: “Drones have great potential and we want to do everything possible to harness the benefits of this technology as it develops.

“But if we are to realise the full potential of this incredibly exciting technology, we have to take steps to stop illegal use of these devices and address safety and privacy concerns.

“These new laws strike a balance, to allow the vast majority of drone users to continue flying safely and responsibly, while also paving the way for drone technology to revolutionise businesses and public services.”