Sara Verbruggen

Freelance journalist

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Experienced freelance B2B journalist and editor, specialising in fields of renewable energy, energy storage, smart grids and nanotech.
December 13, 2017

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The rising role of IT in physical access control

DRONE REGULATIONS

How regulators both sides of Atlantic are clamping down on drone menace

Drone collisions with aircraft are more damaging than bird strikes, a US study has claimed, as authorities on both sides of the Atlantic impose regulations to curb irresponsible and dangerous drone use.

According to the US study, by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), current aircraft manufacturing standards are not appropriate for the growth in drone use. However, the report stopped short of saying such collisions could be fatal.

The US FAA pledges to work with drone-makers to develop technology to detect and avoid planes.

By the end of 2017, it is estimated there will be more than two million drones in use in the US.

A team of researchers from four universities conducted the research for the FAA study, using drones weighing 1.2kg to 3.6kg and simulation software.

The tests, conducted over 14 months, considered 140 scenarios, including the risk of a battery fire after a crash. Windscreens on aircraft were found to be particularly vulnerable to being damaged.

A similar study in the UK, which was conducted by military research firm Qinetiq on behalf of the UK government, has also suggested that drone strikes can cause critical damage to planes.

The British government has since proposed licensing for all drone operators from 2018.

UK drone bill

Recently, the UK Department of Transport outlined a draft of a proposed drone bill, which will see police be given more power to prevent unsafe or criminal use of drones.

The bill is expected to be published in Spring 2018. It will include additional measures that will make it mandatory for drone owners to register for a national database.

The bill will also require drone owners to download an app with information needed to make sure any planned flight can be made safely and legally. Drone operators will also be required to take a safety awareness test.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for criminal misuse of drones, Assistant Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, said: “Police forces are aware of the ever increasing use of drones by members of the public and we are working with all relevant partners to understand the threats that this new technology can pose when used irresponsibly or illegally.

“Do not take this lightly – if you use a drone to invade people’s privacy or engage in disruptive behaviour, you could face serious criminal charges.” Assistant Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for criminal misuse of drones

“Do not take this lightly – if you use a drone to invade people’s privacy or engage in disruptive behaviour, you could face serious criminal charges.”

The new law proposes a 250g weight limit, which is the same as that used in the US to define the lowest-risk category of drones, which essentially weigh so little that they are unlikely to damage people or property in the event of failure.

However, major drone manufacturers, including DJI, a Chinese firm that supplies semi-professional unmanned aviation vehicles, have criticised the weight limit and argue that an upper weight limit for a ‘lowest-risk’ drone is around 2.2kg.

Instagram warning

In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) estimates 1.5 million drones will be sold in the run-up to Christmas. Many purchases will be drones bought as presents for children and under-18s.

A recent concerning trend is flying drones illegally in order to take Instagram photos. The CAA is warning customers to buy drones from responsible retailers that provide copies of official airspace rules and safety advice.

Current and proposed regulations surrounding drone use is dis-incentivising some people from buying them.

A survey carried out by the CAA revealed that 69% of people would prefer to buy a drone from a responsible retailer, though 27% were unaware of the rules surrounding their usage in the UK.

According to the CAA’s Drone Code drones must always be flown below 400 ft and must always be at least 150ft away from people. In addition, drone users are also not allowed to fly their drones near airports or air fields.

Drunk flying to be banned

New Jersey state law makers passed legislation in early December that bars people from operating drones while drunk.

The New Jersey bill would make operating a drone under the influence of alcohol a disorderly person offense, which carries a sentence of up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both, upon conviction. Using a drone to hunt wildlife and endanger people or property would be made a similar offence.

According to the National Conference on State Legislatures more than 38 states are considering drone legislation, going beyond the FAA’s regulations.

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