Landowners in Wales are calling for compulsory registration and insurance for drone users to protect people, privacy and livestock.
In a response to a UK government consultation on safe drone use, CLA Cymru says it wants to see a change to the Civil Aviation Act 1982 (CAA), which, in addition to a system of registration and insurance, would also mean recreational drone users would be required to seek the landowners’ permission before flying over private land.
CLA Wales’ Surveyor, Charles de Winton, said: “The use of drones - both commercially and for recreation - is a fast growing area but while there is huge potential to benefit a wide range of industries, particularly agriculture, it is vital that regulations keep up with the pace of the changes that are taking place.
“Our members have concerns about recreational users flying surveillance drones weighing up to 20kg over their houses, gardens and fields. These machines can cause panic among livestock and create a very real feeling of invasion of privacy. There is also the potential to cause considerable damage should the pilot lose control.”
There is currently no requirement for training or an assessment of capability for recreational drone users. Mr de Winton explained that, if a drone is flown within the current rules, it is unlikely to be trespassing because of an existing statutory exemption for “aircraft”. Because of this exemption, CLA Cymru, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses in Wales, says if problems arise, resolving the issue can be an uphill battle.
“When you spot a drone flying over your property it can be difficult to determine whether it has onboard surveillance equipment. Then you need to find and identify the operator, who could be up to half a kilometre away from the drone.
“The uncertainty and huge costs involved in litigation, particularly with the complexity in the law of privacy, is likely to be a deterrent to all but those with the deepest pockets. That is why we say it is essential for the CAA 1982 to be updated to reflect modern drone technology and usage,” said Mr de Winton.