The government of the UK said on Saturday all drones larger than 250 grams—slightly more than half a pound, for all you ignorant Americans—will need to be registered with the Department of Transport following a report by aviation authorities drones as small as 400 grams could damage helicopter windshields. Drone owners will also be required to pass a “safety awareness test” demonstrating they understand UK rules on safety and privacy.
Aviation Minister Lord Martin Callanan said in a statement on the government’s web site that he recognized the usefulness of drones, but “Like all technology, drones too can be misused. By registering drones, introducing safety awareness tests to educate users we can reduce the inadvertent breaching of airspace restrictions to protect the public.”
In an interview with BBC News, Callanan pre-emptively defended himself against the idea he was a big British buzzkill, saying the new rules are “not about stopping people having fun.” He may have a point: In April 2017, two orb-shaped drones were reported to have flown close enough to an Airbus A320 jet approaching Heathrow Airport that British authorities deemed the incident a serious collision risk.
“Registration has its place,” University of Kent law professor Dr. Alan McKenna told BBC News. “I would argue it will focus the mind of the flyer—but I don’t think you can say it’s going to be a magic solution.”
According to TechCrunch, major drone manufacturer DJI supports the new regulations, though cautioned against stricter rules like expanding no-fly zones.
No details on implementation, or a timeline on when the new rules will be in force, were posted alongside the notice, so it remains unclear how long drone owners in the UK have before they’ll have to put their names on the list.
In the US, no one has to register any non-commercial drones following a May 2017 court ruling invalidating the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone regulations. The FAA even started refunding the $5 registration fee drone owners were required to shell out in the first place.
[UK.gov via TechCrunch]