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High-flying Father's Day Gift? What legal regulations should drone users be aware of?

Did you receive a drone this Father’s Day? With Aldi recently revealing their £50 camera drones, it seems likely that the flying gadgets would have been a popular and affordable gift last weekend.

International excitement surrounding the device has steadily increased during recent years and they have become a more familiar sight in the UK. The variety of innovative use for drones has fuelled this interest - from delivering lifesaving medical equipment to monitoring and protecting endangered species, to using 958 of them to illustrate TIME magazine's June 2018 front cover.

However, with the technology becoming more accessible, the rules regarding their usage in the UK are a vital consideration. The regulations do not allow drones to be used commercially without a licence, there are limits regarding how high and far they can be flown and how close they can be in relation to people, buildings and infrastructure.

The Government recently announced new UK drone laws which are more stringent. Owners will be required to take safety tests and register with the Civil Aviation Authority if they wanted to fly a drone heavier than 250 grams. There will also be tougher height restrictions and exclusions zones near important infrastructure. Under the recently approved amendments to the current laws, new requirements concerning flying above a certain altitude and too close to aerodromes will be in force from 30 July 2018, whilst requirements for registration and pilot competency tests will be effective from 30 November 2019.

It remains to be seen if these new regulations will stifle the growth in the usage of drones by British businesses and the public. With companies such as Amazon investing in the commercial uses of drones in the UK, it seems likely that this technology will only continue to become a more common occurrence  in our skies.

Chris Dyson, Partner and Head of Technology at Ashfords LLP said:

"There is clearly a spike in consumer interest, which has seen more advanced drones become available to mass markets and the need for better regulation. However, it is the commercial market which is expected to see most development in the coming years. High profile funding rounds in companies like PrecisionHawk, Cape and Sky-Futures indicate that investors are showing increased appetite in the drone space, particularly where the focus is on software integration."

Information on the regulations concerning drones can be found in the Air Navigation Order 2016, and the future amendment order that is yet to come into force