The Chaotic State of UK Drone Regulation

by   Scott McLachlan, et al.

In December 2020 the law for drone pilots and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) use went into a transition phase in preparation for new EU international UAV regulation. That EU regulation comes into full effect as the transition periods defined in the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority Air Policy CAP722 expire during December 2022 (CAA, 2020). However, international homologation regulation will not address the patchwork of inconsistent drone use regulations that exist in the United Kingdom from the layering of local and subordinate authority byelaws over UK aviation law. We provide an extensive review of local authority regulation of drone use on public open and green spaces, finding that many local authorities are unaware of the issues being created through: (i) inappropriately couched or poorly framed byelaws; (ii) multiple byelaws covering the same area by virtue of overlapping jurisdictions; or (iii) the lack readily identifiable policies for drone use on public land. Overregulation, inconsistent regulation and regulatory disharmony are causing confusion for recreational drone enthusiasts such that it is never clear which public or crown-owned open and green spaces they are allowed to, or prohibited from, flying. While the government and local authorities might like them to, drones are not going away. Therefore, we conclude, the easiest way to ensure citizens stay within the bounds of drone law that is intended to ensure public safety, is to make that law comprehensible, consistent and easy to comply with.


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