Drones, more correctly known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, are one of those consumer electronics products which have witnessed a surge in demand in the last decade. These flying wonders have revolutionized the way people take photographs and videos while also creating entirely new recreational opportunities for many. Various professional uses are being documented every passing day.
One of the first mentions of such unmanned vehicles was in the works of the Croatian polymath, Nikola Tesla. In fact, his idea was so revolutionary, so ahead of its time that many experts call it Tesla’s Third Wonder- the first two being the inventions of the AC motor and wireless power.
Not even Tesla, one might dare say, could have ever guessed what heights this technology would one day reach.
But all these positive highlights often hide a slightly darker underbelly- the unrestricted and untamed use of UAVs/drones. There are matters of grave concerns if such devices fall into the hands of mala fide elements. To the end, most countries have introduced several new laws for drone sand are in the process of formulating additional legislation to curb unwanted and illegal usage.
The United States:
The USA perhaps has the most conclusive set of drone regulations in the world along with the highest usage. All drones which are heavier 250 grams must be registered with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), which controls flight operations in the country. In America, these devices are more commonly called Remotely Piloted Vehicles or RPVs. Before 2012, the FAA did not bother too much about drones. However, the security concerns and the growing number of such devices forced it to take action.
As of August 2013, all drones above the 250 gram limit needed a permission to operate. These FAA-issued permissions also depend on whether you are flying a drone for recreational or professional purposes. If you intend to fly a device for professional reasons- that is, you will make money out of the enterprise- you have to pass a test and receive a Part 107 certification.
A license fee may also be required.
Since the USA is a federal structure, various states have differing laws. But the central tenets of the legislation remain the same:
• All drones flying on US soil must have the ten-digit alphanumeric FAA registration code pasted on the outer surface.
• The operator should be at least 13 years old.
• The device must be registered.
There was considerable fear when some drones were seen flying over the ever-busy Gatwick and Heathrow airports in London back in 2018. Post that, drone regulations have been tweaked considerably. On 11 June 2019, the European Union laid down specific instructions on drones.
These rules will bring a level playing field on owners and operators of these UAVs, whether flown for work or fun.
Since the Union is a seamless network of the member states, it covers most of Europe. The rules are yet to be formulated or promulgated in full; more details will be made available in the first week of December when the Amsterdam Drone Week is on. Some main themes will be on the lines of:
• Limitations on photographic reconnaissancecapabilities.
• Restrictions of flights over densely populated areas.
• A ban on low-flying drones.
• Certain rules will be framed on whether the UAVs are Beyond-Visual-Line-Of-Sight fliers or otherwise.
When the rules are framed, all member countries will have 1 year to comply. In the United Kingdom, things are slightly difficult to predict. That is because the Brexit negotiations are still going on.
Other major countries
Here is how some world’s most influential countries treat drones.
Canada makes it mandatory for all drones to be registered with Transport Canada provided they weigh between 250 g and 25 kg. You also need to avail a drone pilot certificate from the said body.
Additionally, you must also comply with the following rules –
• Not fly within 1.5 km of heliports and 5.6 km of airports.
• Not fly within 30 m of bystanders.
• Fly below 122 m (400 ft).
• Not fly near other drones, helicopters, or airplanes.
Down Under, it is legal to fly a drone but you have to follow certain rules. The fundamentals are laid down by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Some most essential drone regulations you have to comply with are –
• You cannot fly the drone if it is flying lower than 400 feet.
• You are not allowed to fly two drones simultaneously.
• Any drone heavier than 100 grams will not be allowed to fly in heavily populated cities.
• You must respect personal privacy and not film people or events without their consent.
There are certain apps which can help you determine when it is okay to fly an UAV and when not.
It is entirely legal to fly a drone in Brazil as it is in Australia. The restrictions are laid down by the Brazilian Civil Aviation Authority and must be followed at all times. The most important rules to abide by are:
• No operator younger than 18 can fly one.
• Any drone above 250 grams has to carry an accident insurance cover.
• There must be a distance of at least 90 feet between such a drone and buildings.
• Do not fly one too close to an airport.
China has one of the world’s largest consumer bases for drones. Various manufacturers of these devices are based in China. Despite that, the country has severely stringent laws for drones. If you are planning to capture splendid aerial shots in the ancient land, be careful to avoid No Fly Zones or NFZs. You must also possess a valid license from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
Egypt is famed for its impressive landscape and tourist locales which attract a fair share of drones flown by enthusiasts. The laws for drones are very different, however. Should you wish to fly a drone there, you will have a very difficult time getting permission. Some legislation has been passed there, specifically Law No. 92, which has put a stop to reckless
India has strict legislation in place which makes it tough, at times, to get a permit to fly a drone. The legislation in place there is set by the DGCA, which comes under the Home Ministry. The new laws for drones which came into existence effective December 1, 2018, are meant to ease the process.
The future of legislation vis-a-vis drone flying
It is very difficult to predict which way legislation for drone swill move, but most experts predict greater curbs on commercial drone-flying will soon be visible. There are growing concerns over violations of privacy against those who operate these devices, and such fears are not entirely unfounded.
There are also allegations that certain elements, namely terrorist groups, may use UAVs to recce their targets. While that may sound far-fetched, it is still a potent threat.
On the other hand, drone competitions are getting more popular every passing day. The potential boost that tourism may get from drone photography is enormous and will provide extra economic incentives to not promote strict anti-drone laws.
What, then, of the legislation?
Well, it is expected that governments will take a nuanced stand on the matter. A balanced set of laws for drones which fits the prevailing laws across countries is expected. You can bet a good sum on the Middle East easing up on future legislation for drones while Europe will gradually lose its charm.
Let common sense prevail
If you plan to have a trip with your UAV friend to remote locales, ensure you are aware of the laws and abide by them. Contact the local authorities when in doubt. And wherever possible, try to get a taste of how to film without bothering anybody.
While the adage of common sense being very uncommon, you can always swim upstream. Drone Laws map is accessible in this link: https://the-drones.com/drone-laws-map