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New rules for use of drones come into effect

04 January 2021

Users of drone technology will be subject to new rules that came into effect on 31 December, designed to harmonise the international laws governing their use.

In addition to the UK, the laws apply to all EU members, along with Norway and Iceland, and are intended to make owners easier to trace.

The new rules outline where drones can be flown and remove distinction between commercial and recreational use, which potentially provides more opportunities for their use, according to the BBC.

Drones are now divided into three categories of high, medium and low risks.

Low-risk drones will not require any authorisation for their use, but will be subject to strict operational limitations.

Medium-risk drones will require authorisation from the national aviation authority concerned, and will be subject to risk assessments.

High-risk drones will be required to follow aviation rules, which will also apply in future flights where passengers are carried.

Low-risk drones will be divided into A1, A2 and A3 categories, governed by the weight of each model.

Those weighing less than 250g can be flown over people, while those above this but less than 2kg need to be flown at least 50m from populated areas.

Drones in the A3 category weighing more than 2kg must be flown "well away from people".

The BBC report quotes the response to the new rules from drone manufacturer DJI:

"It streamlines different processes and allows customers to travel from country to county without having to worry about different rules in different foreign locations," said director of public policy Christian Struwe.

Within the UK, those flying drones of weighing more than 250g need to have passed the Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) theory test and have a flyer ID, which allows them to fly within 150m of people.

Drones have seen increasing use in and around facilities and estates and are seeing more long-distance use for deliveries of packages, with more options emerging as the supporting technology continues to be developed.

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