The Government announces new drone bill for 2018

The Government has announced the intention to publish a draft law which will require all drones over a certain size to be registered.

The draft Bill, we are told, will be published in Spring 2018. From what has been published today we can expect the following to be in the draft Bill:

  • Users of all but the smallest and entry-level size drones (all drones over 250g) to register them.
  • Leisure pilots will be required to undergo a pilot test.
  • Users will also have to pass safety awareness tests and potentially use “safety and airspace awareness apps” to determine if a drone flight is safe and legal.
  • The police will be given powers to ground or seize drones in certain circumstances where they have reasonable suspicion that it has been involved in an offence.
  • The Government will be working on creating “no-fly zones” using geo-fencing technology to interact with the in-built GPS and prevent the drone from flying into a restricted zone.

Whilst we welcome this further announcement on the Government’s plans for drones, the plans still sound somewhat up in the air (no pun intended). Today’s Ministerial Statement appeared to offer detail, but in reality provided little more than the announcement they made earlier in the summer.

Whilst it is good to hear they are sticking to their promise to do something about drones, endless announcements delay the draft Bill and disclosure of actual detail. We have been calling for action to be taken on drones for some time and we have always advocated for registration. A consultation on the safe use of drones in the UK was announced earlier this year and you can read our response here.

However, it is far from clear exactly how registration will work. How will those flying unlawfully or in a dangerous or non-privacy friendly way be approached, reprimanded and dealt with? Also, what exactly is a “safety and airspace awareness app”?  What will it consist of, how will it work and what protections and safeguards will be in place to protect user’s data via strong data protection laws and encryption?

These are all questions which can only be addressed when the draft Bill is published.

Questions aside, we are pleased that registration is being taken seriously as an idea – it is something Big Brother Watch have long championed and we will be pleased to participate in the debate and discussion about the draft Bill next year.

For more information about today’s announcement click here.