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The end of Drones ?

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

New UK Drone Laws

Few things in landscape photography divide opinion quite as much as drones, they really are the marmite of this world.

On one hand they provide beautiful cinematic footage of angles that you wouldn't normally see and on the other the shatter the peace and serenity of the landscape with their relentless buzzing and intrusive nature.

For me personally I can't stand them, There is nothing worse than enjoying the quiet times at a beautiful landscape only to have a drone suddenly fire up and ruin everything with its relentless droning noise, flying in and out of your shot generally annoying all around with the exception of the "Pilot" (I use this term loosely) Yep, I hate them.

On the flip side I totally get its a landscape for everyone to use and I do enjoy seeing well shot drone sequences on videos, its that age old problem of "Feel free to fly one, just not near me" which is the consensus from a lot of people frankly, albeit not a practical one.

Drone legislation was brought in to somewhat control the situation and a few laws were passed which in reality didn't really change anything, it did however make it almost impossible to sell your drone footage to the press unless you had a commercial license for one, This came at a huge cost and under a lot of red tape.

The laws/guidelines that came into effect for private use were.....

* Don't fly near airports or airfields.

* Remember to stay below 400ft (120m).

* Observe your drone at all times – stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property.

* Never fly near aircraft.

* Enjoy responsibly.

Pretty much common sense really but it needed clarification for the odd few irresponsible owners who seemed to lack the all important common sense element.

There was also the threat of an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison for flying near an airport or going over 400 feet.

So at this point it was still perfectly legal to own and pilot a drone for everyone but the possibility to earn money with them was very heavily regulated and not in favour of the hobbyist pilot.

Drones received a whole series of bad press with recent protests at airports and once that happened the government looked at them in a whole new light, rather unsurprisingly the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) have again added to the requirements for drone owners with the introduction of a new scheme.

All drones as of the 30th of November 2019 must be registered with the CAA and have a unique code which would link the drone with the pilot to help identify the owner and according to the CAA "to help unite lost drones with owners" of which no one is buying.

The cost of registering your drone will be £9 a year at the time of writing.

You will also be required to take a test which is free and comprises of 20 questions of which you must make a minimum score of 16 out of 20 in order to pass and this must be renewed every three years.

You can take the test as many times as you like, so effectively a "keep going till you pass" test likened to a driving theory test for aviation.

Now this test and legislation has some parameters which are the drone in question must be in the weight category of 250g (9oz) to 20kg (44lbs)

New UK Drone Laws

New UK Drone Laws
The DJI Mavic Mini designed to come within the parameters for registration

Now most drones do fall into this category, that was until DJI released the Mavic Mini which comes in at a handy 249g thus rendering all of the above irrelevant.

You can "pilot" this drone right out of the box with zero experience or training and no general idea about it (Much like the early days of drones) and it is bound to open the floodgates for every manufacture to now produce a drone model that comes in under 250 grams in order to be free of legislation.

The above "common sense" rules will still apply to these drones but no license or ID will be required, Essentially sky rats will just get smaller now.

Worth noting here that if you were to fly a drone that is inside of the specified weight category then you are liable for a fine of £1000 although I'm not really sure who is going to police this ? or how for that matter ?

With roughly 100,000 drone owners in the UK it's going to be interesting to see if the CAA will in fact actively target people using them as a revenue boost, but will the revenue off set the cost of people paid to go out and find offenders ? Im not so sure.

Drones do seem set to stay and more and more landscape photographers seem to be getting them since they have been made very popular with YouTube Vloggers of which everyone seems to want to be one at the moment.

Couple this with the age of the unregistered micro drone and if anything I can see them becoming even more popular as they are now smaller in size than a lot of mobile phones and can easily fit in most rucksacks without increasing much in weight.

I understand people want to use and enjoy drones and I don't want to be a killjoy and whinge about them, I just hope more people do it with more consideration for others around them and realise their moment of enjoyment is probably causing others around them to not enjoy theirs, Be responsible and considerate.

As always, Happy shooting.

Daniel Wretham


Landscape photography blog

Landscape Photography Blog

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