Farm leaders are demanding stricter rules on the use of drones in the wake of booming Christmas sales and the launch of a government consultation.
While on-farm use has many potential benefits and should be protected for professional purposes, the NFU explained farmers and their livestock are particularly vulnerable to the irresponsible use of drones by members of the public.
“Drone use on farm is multi-dimensional and we will communicate to government the advantages this can have for farmers,” said NFU vice-president Guy Smith.
“There are exciting developments in the pipeline, such as crop applications, which could keep British farming at the cutting edge and internationally competitive.
“However, we are also very aware of instances of irresponsible use of drones by members of the public and have already seen the first instances of sheep worrying by drones.
“We are calling for government to address this and are hopeful that any legislation will introduce measures to protect farmers and landowners.”
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has also called for tighter rules to address concerns over privacy while flying drones over residential properties and private land.
“The growth in the availability of drones with high-resolution cameras for leisure use, rather than industry, presents a significant risk to privacy and requires action,” said CLA president Ross Murray.
“We need reassurance that drones being flown over private property or land are being done so legally, professionally and safely.
“We must also address the potential for damage to property and injury to livestock.”
The comments follow the launch of government plans to introduce strong safeguards to protect the public.
Measures put out for consultation include:
- Mandatory registration of new drones and a theory test for users
- Tougher penalties for illegal flying near no-fly zones, such as airports and prisons
- Making drones electronically identifiable so owner’s details can be passed to police
Aviation minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “Drones have enormous economic potential and are already being used by emergency services to respond to incidents and save lives.
“While the vast majority of drone users are law-abiding and have good intentions, some operators are not aware of the rules, or choose to break them, putting public safety, privacy and security at risk.”
Know the law when it comes to drones
Did you get a drone for Christmas? Lots of people did. Here is a quick guide to the current regulations.
What are the rules?
Within the UK, the use of radio apparatus – including drones – is regulated to ensure only equipment that is safe and does not cause harmful radio interference is placed on the market.
Radio apparatus can only be used under the terms and conditions of an Ofcom licence, but most domestic drones don’t need a licence so long as they are “CE” marked and meet certain requirements.
What about “first-person view” (FPV)?
If your drone has a video facility that transmits images from the drone back to the control unit for first-person view (FPV), it will probably use the licence-exempt 5.8GHz band.
This allows for a maximum transmit power of 25 milliwatts.
What if my drone uses more power or is on a different frequency?
Using apparatus that does not meet the conditions of the licence exemption – or is not specifically licensed – is an offence.
Some offences can attract fines of up to £5,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment. The courts can also confiscate anything used in connection with the offence.
How can I tell if my drone is legal?
It will have a clear and permanent CE mark, including on the packaging and accompanying documents such as instructions;
All the required product/packaging/instructions marking and labelling, and other required information, will also be present and it will have a declaration of conformity (DoC).
If you have any concerns about a product, check with the supplier or manufacturer before you fly.
Five top tips for flying your drone
Once you’ve bought your drone, you’ll want to take to the skies.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has issued five top tips for responsible drone use:
- Fly safely and understand the law; you are legally responsible for every flight and can be prosecuted if found to be operating a drone in an unsafe manner.
- Respect the privacy of others and obtain permission before flying over privately owned land or property.
- Never fly within 50m of people or buildings.
- Animals can be easily frightened by drones which can cause injury to them and others.
- Use common sense when operating a drone: keep it in sight at all times and do not fly above 120m (400ft).
The Civil Aviation Authority has also published a Dronecode, which includes a summary of the rules for flying your drone.
It says the objective is not to stop drone users from having fun, but to ensure they have the information needed so they are not posing a risk to any other aircraft or people.
For more information, visit www.dronesafe.uk