The government has announced plans to introduce drone registration, as well as a safety awareness test for all drone users in the UK.
The move arrives following findings that drones weighing at least 400g can damage helicopter windscreens on collision. This research was conducted by the Department for Transport (DfT), British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) and the Military Aviation Authority (MAA).
The new safety test rules will apply to drones that weigh 250g and heavier. This includes most of the drones that we’ve just tested.
It’s hoped that the proposed measures will encourage owners to fly their drones responsibly, and improve accountability when they don’t. The government is looking into how best to embed electronic identification and tracking within the registration scheme.
The government may produce separate guidance aimed particularly at adults supervising children flying drones. Linked to this, the government may also revisit standards for age labelling on drone packaging.
The new measures are expected to be enforced next year, but for now they’re still subject to consultation.
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How to fly a drone safely
Even though these new measures have not yet been implemented, there are still rules and regulations you need to stick to when flying your drone. Legal responsibility for flying a drone lies with you, the user – and failure to fly responsibly can lead to criminal prosecution.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a ‘drone code’, which simply outlines key principles of flying your drone safely. These include:
- Don’t fly near airports or airfields.
- Stay below 400 feet (or 120 metres).
- Observe your drone at all times.
- Stay 150 feet (or 50 metres) away from people and property – and 500 feet (or 150 metres) away from crowds of people and built-up areas.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Remember that legal responsibility lies with you.
Read our guide on how to fly a drone safely for more explanation and information on responsible flight.
Plans to expand geofencing
The government’s announcement also included plans to expand the use of geofencing in the UK. This GPS-based technology is built into drones, and is designed to stop them from flying in prohibited zones.
Eight of the 13 drones we tested already have built-in geofencing, as well as a few other safety features.
Use the filters on our drone reviews to find a model that has the safety features you want.
How we find the best and worst drones
A drone has to be easy to fly to be worth considering at all.
We put all drones through a comprehensive set of flight tests, covering everything from take-off to landing. We’ve found some drones that respond immediately and accurately to commands, whereas others might make you feel less in control.
We also test the quality of photos and videos captured by a drone’s camera, and measure just how long each drone lasts before the critical low-battery warning flashes up.