Drones are taking off in a big way. Once the preserve of the military, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now used in a wide range of industries, from aerial surveillance of crops to search and rescue operations to delivery of medical supplies to remote or otherwise inaccessible regions.
Civilian use of drones has also been growing, as consumer-grade devices become increasingly sophisticated and ever cheaper. Many people simply regard them as toys – the modern equivalent of the remote-control helicopter – while others use built-in cameras for taking photos and filming videos from the sky.
The rules governing use of drones are still evolving, as the implications of these new use cases become clear. For example, the House of Lords EU Committee recently called for the compulsory registration of all commercial and civilian drones, amid growing concern over the use of drones by private individuals with little knowledge of aviation rules.
At the moment, there is nothing to stop you going and buying a drone and taking it out flying, as long as the drone weighs less than 20kg and you are not using it for commercial reasons. However, you must avoid flying it within 150 metres of a congested area and 50 metres of a person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the pilot.
“That’s probably going to be fine if you’re flying the drone in your back garden, but if you’re in a park, for example, you need to be very careful about making sure you’re not flying it within 50 metres of other people who are in the park,” said Sally Annereau, data protection analyst at law firm Taylor Wessing.