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Mandatory registration for new drones considered in safety crackdown

The consultation will also consider whether there is a need for a new criminal offence for the misuse of drones. Credit: PA

Those who receive a drone this Christmas could be forced to register it, in a bid to crackdown on reckless users.

The mandatory registration proposal for new drones is part of a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation on improving drone safety, and is hoped it will help authorities identify the owners of drones which are flown illegally.

Other measures being consulted on include:

  • Tougher penalties for flying in restricted areas, such as near airports and prisons
  • New warning signs around no-fly zones
  • Making drones electronically identifiable so the owner's details can be passed to police if they are spotted breaking the law
  • Whether there is a need for a new criminal offence for the misuse of drones
The Government is considering making drone registration mandatory. Credit: PA

The consultation comes following 59 near misses involving drones and aircrafts in UK Airprox Board (UKAB) reports over the past 12 months.

In July an Airbus A320 passenger plane had a "very near-miss" with a drone near the Shard in central London.

The pilot estimated that the drone flew within 20m of his aircraft at an altitude of 4,900ft as he approached Heathrow Airport.

While in August police investigated a "reckless near-miss" between a drone and a plane flying from Stanstead Airport to Newquay Airport.

In response, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a revised Dronecode, giving advice on how to operate drones safely.

The CAA guidance tells drone users to:

  • Not fly near airports or airfields
  • Fly below 400ft (120m) and at least 150ft (50m) away from buildings and people
  • Ensure they can see their drone at all times
  • Never fly near aircraft
  • Fly responsibly
The Government is considering making drones electronically identifiable so the owner's details can be passed to police if they are spotted breaking the law. Credit: PA

Former RAF and British Airways pilot Steve Landells, a flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots' Association, welcomed the launch of the DfT consultation.

He said: "Pilots are concerned about the growing number of near misses and the potential for catastrophe should a collision occur.

"At the same time, Balpa believes drone operators, especially hobbyists, need to be made aware of the potential dangers of irresponsible flying.

"We support the DfT in pressing for better education, compulsory registration and high profile prosecution for careless operators."

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon also welcomed the consultation, claiming the Government was taking a "common sense approach" to ensuring the safe development of the technology in the UK.

He said: "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.

"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."

In November, Justice Secretary Liz Truss unveiled her blueprint for prison reform, including the introduction of no-fly zones to stop drones dropping drugs and other contraband into jail grounds.