The arrival of drones and their impact on the lives of the average person has certainly taught us a lesson about technological naivety. Proposals and the rapid approval of new legislation intended to control drones illustrates this perfectly. Drone jamming, a concept previously considered to be a bit like sci-fi has become an everyday reality. In the same way that national security regulations keep our airports and military installations safe, so does the new legislation governing drones.
During the latter half of 2017 the UK parliament debated the new legislative proposals. There has been little resistance. The Rt Hon John Hayes MP delivered a powerful address to parliament covering the issues last November. The consequence will be that drones above a certain weight will have to be registered. Additionally, their owners will not be able to use them without passing a test, much like a driver’s licence.
New powers to the police
This new legislation will also bring new powers to the police and other authorities in enforcing the law. Privacy intrusion, risk of industrial espionage and drug trafficking will become easier to crack down on. How this will work in practice is yet to be seen. The legislation will however empower individuals and businesses to manage the problem as it affects them too.
Not only will the individual drones have to be registered, but they will have to be electronically identifiable too. In the same way that a private aircraft emits a signal that identifies it, so will a drone. Owners of drones that drift into regulated airspace will now be identifiable and will be heavily fined. It also empowers those protecting their airspace to implement drone jamming. This is an electronic boundary that cripples the signals to a drone causing it to be taken down. In the past crippling a drone and preventing it from being retrieved through the air may have generated some legal issues. These issues are now addressed by the new proposed legislation.
The invasion of privacy using a drone will be a clear cut criminal offence. Moving to criminalise the use of drones for any sort of anti-social behaviour empowers the public and private businesses to protect themselves against this behaviour. The single greatest drone defence is drone jamming. Drone jamming is already in use in sensitive areas surrounding government property and in some cases industrial property too. Legislation will soon be in place and a drone capture using drone jamming will tip the balance in favour of those on the right side of the law. Once a drone has been captured it can be electronically identified and the operator traced to source.
Unregistered drones will be assumed to be used for anti-social purposes. There is already a code of conduct in place that will become set in stone as part of the new law. Most people using drones will have perfectly honourable intentions. It is those that purchase and use them for criminal purposes that will be affected the most.
Regulation and enforcement
While drone theft may become an issue, reporting a theft means that a stolen drone will identify the operator as a criminal the moment it takes to the sky. The legislation will then work well to identify a drone as part of criminal activity well before it even reaches its destination.
One of the reasons why drones need to be regulated, is to put the technology to good use. Those seeking regulation do not want to see drones removed from the world we live in. it’s a simple case of keeping the tech in the right hands. Drones have incredible potential for use in the emergency services, both as an aide to law enforcement as well as medical emergencies and firefighting.
Banning civilian drones from flying above 400 feet is high on the agenda, not only to protect aircraft, but the higher the drone flies the harder it will become to control.
Ignorance is no excuse
Ignorance of the law will no longer be an excuse. Aside from having to register a new drone, owners will have to sit and pass a test. Effectively they will become licenced. The government has also explored the development of an app which may become mandatory to use. The app will identify whether the airspace being entered is regulated and treated as secure. It will also provide all other necessary information for the drone user to ensure that they are aware whether they risk breaking the law.
While the introduction of the new legislation will develop, change and grow, it is an important starting point. We are now able to harness the technology for the good, keeping societies less desirable elements out of the equation. And we can implement drone jamming without being on the wrong side of the law.