Sky regulators brace for millions of Xmas toy drone sales

Be safe out there, mmkay, says CAA

The Civil Aviation Authority reckons a million and a half consumer drones will be sold over Christmas – and the aviation regulator hopes new dronies will read and obey the law of the skies.

The CAA, whose Dronecode app summarises the dense legalese of the Air Navigation Order into plain English that anyone can understand, reckons 63 per cent of drone sales over the Xmas period will be Chrimbo gifts.

A week-long web survey conducted in late November, comprising 2,000 adults, came up with the (extrapolated) 1.5 million drone sales figure. It seems a bit OTT but there is a more serious point to be made.

The CAA reckons a quarter of its survey respondents were unaware of the rules and regs governing drone flights in the UK, which can be read on the CAA website. In brief, only fly your drone at or below heights above ground of 400ft, stay at least 150ft away from buildings and people, and don’t fly near airports or other aircraft.

One could reasonably expect some of those many drone sales to be driven by the demand effect of impending regulation, where new drone operators will be expected to register with the government and pass a mandatory safety test before using their drones. The registration requirement will apply to all drones weighing more than 250 grams. The new law will be announced in 2018 and could be passed by the end of the year.

Retailers are getting on board with the effort - Andrew Uden, technical director of Maplin, sent a canned quote: “Over the last year we’ve worked hard to ensure that we’re retailing drones in a responsible way, educating new and existing owners on safe usage by driving awareness of the CAA’s Dronecode.”

The CAA’s new responsible retailer scheme awards retailers a “Dronesafe” approval mark if they hand out copies of the Dronecode and other drone safety advice at the point of purchase. So far Maplin, Currys/PC World and Menkind have all signed up. ®

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