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Unmanned Air Vehicles: Crime

Question for Department for Transport

UIN 36085, tabled on 28 April 2016

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what regulations address the criminal use of drones; and what plans the Government has to bring forward further regulations related to such activity.

Answered on

9 May 2016

There are a range of laws in place to regulate the use of drones, prevent criminal use, and enable enforcement action to be taken when needed.

The Air Navigation Order 2009 (ANO) regulates the use of all aircraft, including drones, and provides for a range of offences to guard against criminal use. For example the offences of endangering the safety of an aircraft, and endangering the safety of any person or property, apply to the users of all drones. There are also offences specific to users of small drones, and those using drones for aerial works. Please see at the end of the answer below for a list of these provisions.

The Civil Aviation (Insurance) Regulations 2005 deal with insurance requirements for drones, and contain offences to enforce these.

Offences relating to personal data are provided for in the Data Protection Act 1998.

Other legislation which is not aviation or transport specific may also be relevant to addressing criminal use of drones.

On future regulation, a proposed new EU Regulation on aviation safety is currently being negotiated with the European Aviation Safety Agency and other EU Member States. This will apply to all drones.

While the Government considers that there are comprehensive rules in place to guard against criminal use of drones, we continue to keep under careful review whether there is any need for further legislation in this area.

Provisions in ANO which are enforced by offences listed in Schedule 13 ANO

a) Relevant to all drones:

  • Article 137 - endangering safety of an aircraft
  • Article 138 - endangering safety of any person or property

b) Relevant to drones above 20kg (those over 150kg have additional requirements to meet):

  • Article 3 - registration (unless comply with B Conditions - see Schedule 2 ANO)
  • Article 16 - certificate of airworthiness (unless comply with B Conditions)
  • Article 21 - issue of national permits to fly
  • Article 31 - dropping articles for purposes of agriculture etc
  • Article 129 - dropping of articles and animals

c) Relevant to drones up to 20kg:

  • Article 166 - requirements for small unmanned aircraft

Applying to person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft of 20kg or less (without fuel but including equipment):

  • article 166(1) - Causing or permitting an article or animal to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
  • article 166(2) - Flying without being reasonably satisfied that the flight can be safely made.
  • article 166(3) - Failing to maintain direct, unaided visual contact sufficient to monitor flight path.
  • article 166(5) - Flying for the purposes of aerial work without permission.

Applying to person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft 7kg – 20kg (without fuel but including equipment):

  • article 166(4)(a) - Flying in Class A, C, D or E airspace without the permission of the appropriate Air Traffic Control unit,
  • article 166(4)(b) - Flying within an Air Traffic Zone during the notified hours of watch without permission,
  • article 166(4)(c) - Flying at a height of more than 400ft above the surface unless within 166(4)(a) or (b).
  • Article 167 - requirements for small unmanned surveillance aircraft.

Applying to person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft of 20kg or less (without fuel but including equipment):

  • article 167(1) - Flight over or within 150m of a congested area,
  • article 167(1) & (2)(b) - Flight over or within 150m of an organised open-air assembly or more than 1,000 persons without permission,
  • article 167(1) & (2)(c) - Flight within 50m of any vessel, vehicle or structure or person (not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft) without permission,
  • article 167(3) - Taking off within 30m of a person (not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft).