To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the contribution of the Minister of State of 10 March 2016, Official Report, column 419, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of implementing temporary measures to ensure public safety when drones are used while his Department considers the best action to take.
There are existing regulations in place that require users of drones to maintain direct, unaided visual contact with their vehicle and to not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property. There are severe penalties in place for misuse of drones, such as up to five years imprisonment for endangering an aircraft.
The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) work with a wide range of industry partners across the aviation sector, (including manufacturers, airports, and airlines), to ensure our understanding of potential hazards to aircraft remains up-to-date and mitigations effective. Further work is underway to better understand the risk posed by flying drones close to commercial planes to ensure that regulations remain fit for purpose.
The DfT is also currently working with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to develop consistent, EU-wide safety rules for drones, including potential technical solutions, such as geo-fencing and frequency jammers around airports.
Communication and education of users on current safety restrictions will be key. Officials from my Department are actively considering with the CAA the development of an expanded and diversified communication and education campaign, to include more mediums and supporting products, such as smart phone applications. The CAA is running ‘small UAS’ (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Risk and Hazard workshops with industry as part of the Mid Air Collision Programme.
Guidance on tackling the risks of criminal drone use has been provided to constabularies across the UK. The Secretary of State has written to Police to request their assistance in raising awareness of drone risks and restrictions.