How can I avoid breaking the law with my drone?

Created on December 22, 2018

How can I avoid breaking the law with my drone?

Further to Part 1 of this article, we know that flying your drone in a congested area may leave you liable to a criminal conviction.  Assuming you can find a suitably open space, here are the other criminal law issues you should be aware of.

The Dronecode – part 2

The drone flyer must make sure that they do not cause or allow their drone, whether negligently or recklessly to endanger any person or property.  To try and ensure this does not happen, you are required to take note of the following prohibitions and recommendations when in charge of your drone:

  • You must not allow anything to be dropped or released from the drone when in flight.  For instance if you attach a toy with a parachute on and release it from the drone in the park, the toy accidentally hitting someone, you can be reported and arrested.
  • You should ensure that you are reasonably satisfied that the flight you are about to make can be made safely.  This may mean that you should carry out a risk assessment before take -off so that you can justify your actions should you need to do so.
  • You must make sure that you have visual contact with the drone at all times during take-off, flight and landing.  The purpose of this is so that your drone does not stray into the path of other aircraft, people, vehicles or structures, such as buildings, trees, children’s play area in a park for example.
  • A drone must not be flown for commercial reasons without the permission of the CAA.  In order to gain the relevant permission you will need to register with the CAA and undertake the appropriate tests in order to be granted ‘permission’.  Without the relevant permission you could be arrested and if charged, receive a criminal conviction.

What is Visual Contact?

This sounds like an easy concept, if you can see the drone, no matter how far away it is from you, are you in visual contact for the purposes of safe flying?

The regulations say that a pilot must maintain direct unaided visual contact with the drone at all times. Within the UK, such ‘visual line of sight’ operations are normally accepted to a maximum distance of 500m horizontally and 400ft vertically from the pilot. In this context, ‘unaided’ does permit the use of corrective spectacles but not with the use of binoculars for example!

A flight beyond these distances can be permitted, but the operator is required to provide explicit proof that this can be conducted safely. Therefore, alternative arrangements to prevent collisions must be taken. This means that the drone must either be fitted with a “Sense and Avoid” system or, in the absence of such a system, it must be operated within Segregated Airspace.

A Sense and Avoid system is one or more sensors attached to the drone which has the capability to see, sense or detect conflicting traffic or other hazards and take the appropriate action to comply with the applicable rules.

If you are in any doubt about the lawfullness of your drone flying activities or if you are facing a police investigation in this regard, please contact Old Bailey Solicitors for advice.  Click here for contact details.

Jill Joyce

Jill Joyce

Jill qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and specialises in Magistrates and Youth Court work. She also provides police station representation and undertakes work in all areas of criminal defence.

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