Children and drones, are they a good mix? It has become an accepted concept that a child can use a drone as a toy. Should children have drones? Despite what many may think, a drone is not a toy. It is easy to assume that a drone can be considered the same as a radio controlled boat or racing car. In fact, in the past radio controlled model aircraft were considered the toy to ask Santa for. However even radio-controlled model planes are not the same as a drone.
A radio-controlled model whether a boat, a car or an aircraft are models that move and have no other purpose specification. Although it has been done before and indeed radio-controlled vehicles have been used by military and police units in the past, these models are not designed to carry anything, more specifically cameras or high-tech computing equipment.
Considering the neighbours
It is natural that children will explore and push social and behavioural boundaries. This could however lead to conflict with neighbours. Not only your immediate neighbours but when a drone is involved, neighbours even a few blocks away. A young teen may consider his drone adventures and exercise in exploration. Your neighbours may consider it a violation of their privacy, especially if the experience repeats itself.
It is one thing to set boundaries for children and yet another to enforce them. Considering that is self evident that enforcing boundaries with adult drone users has already become difficult, how much more so with children?
Because the drone phenomenon is quite new, the law has had some catching up to do. Nevertheless, there are still some laws in place that can turn a child into an offender albeit unwittingly. A child that is using a drone with a camera may be infringing on the privacy of a neighbour. However, once the camera records video or takes still images there are other issues that become sensitive. Collecting data of any kind requires consideration of the law and since photographic and videographic data can be considered private, this becomes a quagmire.
The law is rapidly changing too. The department for transport made a statement in July 2017 that they intend to restrict the use of drones. Any drones that are above 250g will have to be registered by the owner. Furthermore, owners will have to take a test to be able to use a drone above this weight. Because access to the test will age restricted, this will effectively bar children from the ownership and use of drones.
Children and drones – The national registration scheme
When we have a look at the drones that are available on the retail market as toys for children, the majority are 350 grams and above meaning that these could shortly become an illegal possession for a six year old.
The national registration scheme would make drones identifiable and trackable. This means that anyone flying a drone above an airport or any other sensitive airspace will be subject to hefty fine. Tracking the owner down and fining them will be easy. Currently the maximum fine rests at £2500, but this is likely to increase.
Because children will not be able to register drones or complete the test, adults that try to circumvent this by allowing their child to control a drone registered in their name will be committing an offence. This would be like allowing your twelve year old to drive the family car on a national motorway. The consequences for both adult and child will be unpleasant.
UAVS require maintenance
Children and drones requiring maintenance are unlikely to go well together. Even drones sold as toys will require some maintenance as they will undergo wear and tear in much the same way that commercial drones do. Depending on the age of the child it is possible that the child operating the drone may not even be aware that the drone is experiencing mechanical failure. A drone flying around in the neighbourhood could pose serious potential risk. A drone that suddenly drops in front of a car or a us even on a suburban street, is a very real danger.
Registration of Drones becoming a reality
With the future implementation of registration of drones, drone jamming, and drone defence will become part of security procedure both in commercial and domestic environments. In fact, drone jamming has grown significantly as part of security measures to protect airports, prisons and government facilities that make up part of our national security. It is not a giant leap before drone jamming becomes part of everyday business considerations, such as ensuring that the locks meet your insurance requirements.
Children and drones are becoming an issue that need consideration by parents’ law enforcement and schools too. If children are going to be exposed to drones, perhaps they should be educated in drone safety in the same way that road safety has become a mainstream topic in their general education.