What is a Drone?
A drone is simply an unmanned aircraft. Its origins can be traced to the military. The first reusable radio-controlled aircraft in the Thirties, built for target practice by the Royal Marines, is often considered the earliest incarnation of the models used worldwide today.
Those first military drones were then given cameras and turned into reconnaissance vehicles that were used in the Vietnam War in the Sixties. More recently, military drones have been fitted with missiles.
Today drones are no longer only operated by the military, with smaller versions used for all sorts of purposes by companies and individuals.
Can Anyone Fly a Drone?
The short answer is yes. Drones are increasingly sophisticated, ever cheaper – and available to ordinary enthusiasts from high street shops.
What Are the Rules?
Most African countries have no rules on the use of drone due to insignificant number of drones in their country.
In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority writes the guidebook here. Drones are classed as a type of aircraft, not a toy. However, there are only a few restrictions of the drone weighs less than 20kg. Flying for commercial use requires the permission from the CAA. You will have to show you are “sufficiently competent”.
If your drone is under 20kg and you’re not using it for commercial reasons, then you still have some rules to follow. Anyone filming with a drone for their own purposes must avoid flying it within 150 metres of a congested area and 50 metres of a person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the pilot.
You will also need to fly the aircraft within sight. This means you can’t go above 400ft in altitude or further than 500 metres horizontally. If you want to exceed that, you’ll again need to seek explicit permission from the CAA.
Drones weighing more than 20kg can only be flown in certified danger areas such as Parc Aberporth aerodrome in West Wales.
How Many Are Being Flown?
In the UK, more than 300 companies and public bodies have permission to fly. Many are film, photography and production companies such as the BBC and ITV. Experts have predicted that small drones will soon “fill the skies”. Civilian applications are made every day.
Hang on, Can My Neighbour Spy on Me Legally?
No. In the same way that it is not permissible to climb a ladder and take pictures of a neighbour’s garden, or any private space, so drones cannot be used to break existing privacy laws.
However, that doesn’t give someone the right to take the law into their own hands. In America in October a 32-year-old waiter allegedly used a shotgun to take down a “helicopter” drone flying in the vicinity of his home and was arrested.
How Much Do Drones Cost?
Drones that fly around your bedroom can be bought for less than £100. Prices then range up to £90,000 if you want TV quality pictures.
Where Can I Buy a Drone?
You can buy small drones that can be safely used by enthusiasts online on Selfridges, Dixons, and other high street stores, even on eBay.
What Are The Risks?
Drones could be dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands, according to the head of Google, Eric Schmidt, who has called for tighter regulation. For example, terrorists could use the new technology to mount remote attacks. “I would prefer to not spread and democratise the ability to fight war to every single human being,” Mr Schmidt said.
A more imminent danger is the risk of collision with, for example, passenger jets.
Culled from The Telegraph