Calls to regulate drones as numbers rocket

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Calls for better regulation of drones have been made after a British Airways plane was hit coming into Heathrow. A recent report found a total of 23 near misses between planes and drones during just six months of 2015.

The problem is set to increase as this emerging technology escalates in popularity. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has recorded a big jump in applications for permissions for commercial use, and high street retailer Maplin sold over 10,000 drones in 2014.

Current legislation prohibits drones flying within 50m of a person, vessel, vehicle or structure and not within 150m of a congested area. In reality this is difficult to enforce. Those operating the drones are hard to locate, and many drones remain unregistered. Where a drone weighs less than 20kg and is not used for commercial purposes, CAA permission is not required.

The government is gathering public feedback on drones prior to publishing a report later this year. One suggestion is compulsory registration of all drones, although on such a small aircraft it could be hard to see any identifying numbers.

Over the next few years our skies are set to see a vast increase in drones. As well as domestic users who treat them as a toy or use them for filming and photography, companies such as Amazon and Google intend to start using them for deliveries.

The risk of accidents is clear, and the government will need to address these concerns, as well as matters of security, privacy and data protection.