Yesterday we was contacted via facebook by a local asking us how we locate the owner of a drone found at her mothers house, somehow (forgot to ask) "attached" to the house. First of all we asked where the property in question was. We searched the address on Google maps. It was right in the middle of a large village between two of our offices at Tamworth and Birmingham Airport in the West Midlands.
In a separate event that occurred earlier in the week we was copied into a post in a professional drone forum trying to locate the owner of a lost drone found by a very honest man in Birmingham City Centre.
At the risk of getting shot down as the "drone police" (a term used often by a small crowd of irresponsible hobby flyers who do as they please with no regard for the law or safety) on both times we asked the reporters to locate the flyer ID and operator ID issued by the CAA which since last year has become law to display on any drone over 250g. On both of these occasions there was neither, and on both occasions the drones were both over 250g!
With this in mind we suspect (but can't prove) neither drone pilots had a PfCO which, like us, allow the drone operator to fly in congested areas (with stringent procedures in place) in areas such as both these west midlands locations.
So what are the rules for hobbyist drone pilots?
As it currently stands (rules about to change again shortly). The drone code states the following for hobbyist pilots without PfCO.
Drones must be in direct line of sight
Drones must not fly more than 400ft high (120m)
Drones must not be flown closer than 50 metres to people or buildings, cars, trains or boats. (150 metres to large crowds)
Drones must be 150 metres from built up areas (Birmingham City Centre is defiantly one of these)
Drones must keep out of airports Restricted zones
Drones must show a valid operator ID
Different rules are in place for PfCO holders (basically the bubble around the drone becomes 50 metres from the above that are "not with in our control" exc crowds of 1000+ which remains at 150m) Some operators also have what is known as an OSC in which some separation distances are as 5 metres!
The drone rules are there for a reason and for everyones safety. In the first example the drone was found "attached" to a house. What if it caused damage to a property, hit a car, hit a person? As for the drone found in Birmingham it is scary what could have happened in such a busy place, with so much traffic, people, buildings, trains etc etc.
These are just 2 examples brought to us in the space of one week in the West Midlands alone, so we understand why drones get such a bad name. Toy drones however are just that - toys and unfortunately for many new pilots, especially children don't realise the drone code applies to toy drones too
Unfortunately a lot of people also like to think (or like to make out) that having an operator ID on their drones issued by the CAA makes them safe and legal drone pilots that can simply fly wherever they like and when responsible drone operators such as ourselves challenge them (we try not to drone on to them too much - excuse the pun) we are all branded with the drone police tag! Unfortunately it is only a matter of time until there will be a serious incident regarding drones.
Pesky Seagull Aerial Photography + Video is a proud and safety conscious drone operator which has evolved from our aviation background working at the UK's major airports. We don't just have a flyer and operator ID, we also have a PfCO allowing us to operate drones in congested areas legally and SAFELY by applying strict procedures, completing risk assessments and more than anything applying common sense!
For more information on the drone code see www.dronesafe.co.uk where you can also report lost and found drones.