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New UK drones law punishes British model flying community

UK: A new set of regulations intended to tighten rules on drone operators is in danger of having a disproportionately negative effect on the model flying community, according to the British Model Flying Association (BMFA) and the All-Party Group on General Aviation (APPG-GA).

The broad thrust of changes to the Air Navigation Order which are supported by the APPG-GA, will see new restrictions imposed on small unmanned aircraft from the 13th of March. However, these include larger exclusion zones around airfields and an extension of rules to cover any unmanned aircraft regardless of mass.

David Phipps, Chief Executive of BMFA expressed the community’s concern by saying “Many long-established clubs have been operating from sites on and around airfields perfectly safely. At a stroke, this rushed new regulation threatens to sweep some of these long standing arrangements aside.

“We are already hearing reports that some airfields are reluctant to renew permissions due to a perceived increase in liability – this represents a real threat to the model flying community which has established an excellent safety record over almost 100 years.” 

The APPG-GA and the BMFA are working together to highlight the issue to Government and convince them to make appropriate changes.

Chair of the APPG-GA, Grant Shapps MP, said “It is important to recognise that both the model flying and drone community are supportive of this new regulation and in the context of recent events at Gatwick it makes perfect sense. However, we do think the lack of concessions for the tried and tested model flying club community is a serious omission which the Department for Transport needs to address urgently”.

The APPG-GA and the BMFA have published a joint letter to the Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg, to highlight the concerns of the model flying community. 

In the letter, the groups highlighted that model flying is a fundamentally different activity from drone flying. The aerodynamics of the model aircraft require a greater level of pilot skill to operate and model flyers must therefore be trained to a higher standard than most hobbyist drone operators. This also limits the performance of model aircraft to well within visual line of sight- a restriction which does not necessarily apply to many types of commercially available drone. 

Mr Phipps said “The new rules have been brought in so suddenly, it is grossly unfair to expect clubs entirely staffed by amateurs working on a voluntary basis to comply in such a short period”.