Following the first confirmed collision between a passenger jet and an Unmanned Aircraft, commonly known as a “Drone” at Heathrow airport at the weekend, the spotlight is firmly on the users of these machines.
It is not illegal to purchase a Drone and it is becoming common to see people in local parks in Ipswich and elsewhere flying these on a recreational level. There are Regulations in force however which include a ban on flying remote-controlled devices over congested areas or within 50 metres of people or buildings without official permission. Breaches can result in the operator being taken to court and fined up to £5,000. The Air Navigation Order defines a congested area as being:
‘any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes’.
In April last year a man was fined £800 and ordered to pay costs of £3,500 at the Furness and District Magistrate court, after being prosecuted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for flying a drone within 50 metres of the Jubilee Bridge on the Walney Channel and flying over a nuclear installation, the BAE System submarine-testing facility. The following month a man was fined for flying a quadcopter over a number of rides at Alton Towers.
If you use a Drone for Commercial purposes then you need special permission from the CAA and could be committing an offence if you do not do so.
Another thing to be wary of is using a drone to record images of other people without their consent, as this could be construed as a breach of the Data Protection Act, or of the CCTV code of practice, which was recently extended to include public use of drones where they are collecting information about individuals.
The CAA says: Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations. The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe. It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.
As an importer of remote controlled toys and unmanned aircraft, you need to be clear about how these are manufactured and marketed in order to avoid falling foul of Consumer Protection Laws. There can be safety issues surrounding the construction of these which you could be made liable for if you import them from outside of the EU, from China for example.
How can our lawyers help you?
It is expected that both the CAA and the Police will be looking at these incidents more closely as Drones become more popular. If you are facing charges relating to Drone use, use a Drone for commercial or hobby purposes and need advice about the Regulations, or perhaps you are the victim of harassment or nuisance relating to a Drone, then you can contact us on 01473 298140.
As a business you may be under investigation by Trading Standards in relation to importing these types of products, we can also advise, guide and represent you in this area.