We are in the age of constant discovery of new technology and the world seems not to be ready to relax yet. Humans all over the globe are constantly and passionately engaging in one discovery or the other. The whole essence of this research is aimed at ensuring a life of comfort and convenience. It is this quest for convenience that led them to the invention of drones.
Drones with their advantages also have many drawbacks. They can be used to spy on an innocent. It can lead to invasion of privacy. Since drones are too easy to buy now, it becomes a serious concern. Almost anyone can go into an electronics store and buy a drone off the shelf for only $ 100. And if it lands in the wrong hands, several problems can arise. To mitigate this, several countries are coming up with their own laws so as to better protect their citizens. Some time ago, an 11 year old girl was hit with the debris of a crashing drone. Moreover, pilots have reported almost two dozen near misses with drones. Keeping these things in mind, it is highly necessary that laws on drones be made and even more necessary that the common man know about these laws.
We would, for the time-being, be discussing about the laws in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In the United States of America, there are laws that are governing the use or deployment of your drone. Let us have a look at some of the laws.
1. REGISTRATION OF DRONES WITH THE FEDERAL AVIATION AUTHORITY (FAA):
It is the policy of this statutory body, whose duties are to regulate activities in the USA airspace, that any drone that weighs more than 55lbs or less than that must be registered with the FAA. Not only this, registration is limited to American citizens and legal permanent residents. The logic of this registration is to prevent violation of other people’s privacy.
2. COMMERCIAL USE OF DRONES:
The laws governing the usage of drones in the USA do not allow you to fly your drones without obtaining a special clearance that will make you fly it for commercial purposes of making profit. If the drone is not to be used for commercial purposes, a clearance is not necessary which is explained below.
3. PERSONAL USE:
There is no law on personal use of drones other than the law that is presently governing the use of model aircraft. However, while using the drone for personal use, there are some limitations that it cannot be flown in areas called “NO FLY ZONES”. These include the White House, the national parks and any other important installation of the country.
4. GUIDELINES FOR FLYING:
You are to maintain the flight of your drone within the altitude limit of 400 feet. You are to keep your personal drones within eyesight and possibly with the employment of an expert if there is need for that. You are also not expected to intentionally fly over unprotected persons, vulnerable properties and moving vehicles. Above all you are to keep a distance of 25 feet from vulnerable persons.
You are not to conduct surveillance activities with your drone in an area wherever privacy is required without express permission.
6. IMPLICATION OF NOT REGISTERING:
The law makes it mandatory that you are to register your drone. Failure to do so will be tantamount to criminal acts and the penalty is a fine of $250,000 or 3 years imprisonment.
It will interest readers to know that a 42 year old man was convicted in the United Kingdom on September 16, 2015 for flying a drone without obtaining permission. His drone was flown over a stadium. According to the Metropolitan Police, this was the first conviction in respect of illegal drone flying. This is to tell us about the severity of not obtaining permission before flying drones. It also tells us that the drones are no longer in use by the military only. They are deployed for various reasons such as search and rescue operations, distribution of hospital equipment to remote and inaccessible areas. Farmers also are engaged in the usage of this wonderful invention of technology for aerial surveillance of their farm produce. What a great invention indeed.
Talking of laws relating to drones in the United Kingdom, the agency that is responsible with the control of the airspace is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There are rules and regulations which must be strictly observed by which you can deploy your drones in the United Kingdom.
1. COMPULSORY REGISTRATION:
The House of Lords (EU Committee) has called for the compulsory registration of both private and commercial usage of drones in the UK. This call came as a result of fear that many people do not have sufficient knowledge of aviation rules.
2. RESTRICTED FLYING ZONES:
At present in the UK, there are no particular rules or regulations that prohibit the purchase of drones, but there are restrictions on the weight and flying zones.Your drones must weigh less than 20 KGs and must not be used for commercial reasons. Also flying is restricted to 150 meters within a congested area.
3. FLIGHT WITHIN SIGHT:
Drones flight must be within sight. This means that you cannot go beyond the regulated limit of 400 feet in altitude while in flight. Maximally, CAA allows you to fly 500 feet horizontally. Should there be need for your drone to go beyond these regulated limits, you are to file an application to the agency seeking its approval first.
4. COMMERCIAL USAGE:
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also makes it mandatory that commercial usage of drones needs to be registered with the agency. In issuing a license, the applicant must show a sufficient evidence of competence and experience in the use of drones.
There is no doubt about the fact that drone technology has indeed made life easier than ever before in many aspects. However, with enjoyment come responsibilities. No one has the authority to infringe upon the rights of others under the pretext of enjoyment and comfort. Keeping this in mind, the aviation authorities have come up with the above mentioned laws. No matter how harsh they seem, they are for the good of the people. We hope that the users would strictly follow the laws and regulations laid down by their respective countries to avoid any harmful incident.