People unwrapping their brand new drones this Christmas have been cautioned to brush up on the rules and risks of flying their devices before taking it to the skies. Following a series of near-misses with aircraft, aviation authorities and police have warned new drone owners that those caught flying their new devices dangerously could face up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine, The Guardian reports.
Last week, the UK government proposed a series of strict measures to curb dangerous flying of personal drones. One of the proposals includes mandating that anyone who buys a drone in the UK to register it and take a test to show they understand the safety guidelines. Other proposed rules include harsher penalties for flying the unmanned aerial vehicles in restricted areas such as airports and prisons.
"Drones have enormous economic potential and are already being used by emergency services, transport and energy providers and conservation groups to improve services, respond to incidents and save lives," aviation minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said.
"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."
Earlier this month, the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation also issued a list of safety tips and facts for new recreational drone owners this Christmas.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched a website in November featuring its updated code of conduct for drone users, dubbed the "Dronecode."
"Drones have significant potential and the new Dronecode, which forms the basis of establishing a responsible attitude toward drone flight amongst consumers, will help to protect the safety of the wider aviation industry," CAA policy director Tim Johnson said in a statement. "It will also help those expected to use drones to improve current operations, from farming to traffic, from healthcare to logistics. Ultimately, people must use their drones safely and responsibly."
As per the new CAA guidelines, drone pilots are not allowed to fly their devices near airports or airfields and have them within their line of sight at all times. The drones may not be flown above 400ft (122m) or within 150ft (46m) of people, buildings, vehicles or over large crowds.
"While we take no issue with people who fly their drones in a safe and sensible manner, some people who fly them near airports or densely populated areas are behaving dangerously," Steve Landells, flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association, said. "We're urging anyone who receives a drone as a Christmas present to take a look at the CAA's dronecode and be proactive in educating themselves before flying it."
The UK Airprox Board (UKAB) has reported about 59 near misses involving drones and aircraft over the past 12 months. In August, a football-sized drone was flown around 65ft (20m) from a passenger jet. According to the UKAB report, the Airbus A320's first officer yelled "Look!" as the device passed next to the right wing when the aircraft was about 11,000ft above south-east London.