Reports of rogue drones ruined Christmas for many, when Gatwick halted flights  ©Gatwick Airport
Reports of rogue drones ruined Christmas for many, when Gatwick halted flights ©Gatwick Airport

Drone legislation due for second reading

Sam De Silva
18 January 2019

ISO will bolster guidance in 2019, says lawyer Sam De Silva

After the drone sightings around Gatwick in December 2018, there is likely to be much interest in the draft Drone Operations Standard currently open for public consultation, with the final version to be published later this year. The focus of ISO/CD 21384-1, explains Sam De Silva, partner at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, is primarily on air safety, data security and privacy. Later parts will cover specifications, manufacturing quality and traffic management.

The draft sets standards for flight log protocols, maintenance, documentation, no-fly zones, local regulations, and stresses social responsibility in drone operations. It also says a person must always be present and accountable for drone flights, even as technology advances, drone pilots must operate systems that protect their data, and hardware and software must be up to date.

While this is positive, points out De Silva, like all ISO standards it is merely guidance. Current laws rule that a drone cannot be flown above 400 feet or within a kilometre of airport boundaries – failure to do so risks a £2,500 fine and five years in jail. Yet, while the law already exists to help with drone issues like Gatwick’s, some kind of registration system could help with enforcement, he concludes, and points to legislation that, from November 2019, owners of 250g+ drones must register with the Civil Aviation Authority and take an online safety test – or be fined £1,000. 

A private members’ bill is set to be read in parliament this February, which could give police more power to intervene if a drone is being flown dangerously or inappropriately, to ground and confiscate it, plus any memory cards as evidence.

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