Canada and the UK are looking
for ways to tighten or increase
rules governing the use of
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
following a high-profile incident at
London Gatwick Airport. The US,
however, is looking to broaden
conditions in which commercial
UAVs can be operated at night
and over people.
Reports of unauthorized drone
activity at Gatwick just before the
holidays led to dozens of flight
cancellations and long delays,
with thousands of passengers
stranded and crowding the terminals.
UK police described the drone
flights as a “deliberate act” to disrupt airport operations and called
in the British Army to deploy anti-drone equipment.
On Jan. 8, departures from
London Heathrow Airport were
briefly suspended following
reports of a drone sighting.
As of mid-January, no one had
been charged with operating the
The UK government has
responded by proposing to
expand no-fly zones near airports for UAVs and to increase police
The government was already studying the future use of UAVs
in the UK, but the chaos at Gatwick prompted a list of proposed
new restrictions and penalties for reckless and unauthorized use
Under the new proposals, drones would be prohibited from flying within 5 km ( 3. 1 mi.) of major commercial airport boundaries
unless the operator receives permission from air traffic controllers. That would expand the current UK drone ban zone; since July
30, 2018, UAVs are not permitted to fly within 1 km of airports
and above 400 ft. From Nov. 30 this year, drones must also be
registered and operators will be required to complete an online
The UK acknowledged, however, that no-fly zones would not
prevent deliberate attempts to disrupt airfield operations.
The UK also wants to give police new powers to request evidence from drone operators where there is reasonable suspicion
of an offense being committed and to issue immediate fines of
£100 ($127) for minor drone offenses.
Reckless use of drones is already punishable by up to five years
in prison under UK law.
The government is also seeking to fast-track anti-drone technology research. Gatwick and Heathrow said they have acquired,
or plan to acquire, anti-drone technology since the incidents.
A parliamentary bill containing the new proposals will be introduced later this year.
Transport Canada, meanwhile, announced new rules governing the use of small UAVs that will introduce basic and
advanced categories of drone operations, requiring owners to
register their aircraft and obtain a pilot certificate. The new
rules, which become effective June 1, apply to recreational, commercial and academic operators of drones weighing from 250
grams to 25 kg. (0.55 lb. to 55 lbs.) Operators flying outside
the parameters of the rules will need to apply for a special flight
In the US, FAA, which had previously taken steps and implemented rules mandating that UAV owners register, is planning
to publish a proposed regulation that would allow flights of small
drones for commercial purposes at night and over people under
US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the
pending release of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM)
governing small drones Jan. 14. She said the proposed rule
would be published in the federal register “as soon as possible,” followed by a 60-day comment period, she said.
Under its Part 107 regulation, which became effective in
August 2016, FAA does not allow commercial operators of drones
weighing under 55 lbs. to fly them at night or over people without
first obtaining a waiver. The proposed rule would expand the
activities allowed under the regulation to allow night flights if the
operator has received appropriate training, completed approved
testing and fitted the aircraft with anti-collision lighting, according
to a copy of Chao’s remarks.
“The proposed rule would allow drones to make routine flights
over people without a waiver or an exemption under certain
conditions,” Chao said. “These conditions depend upon the level
of risk to people on the ground and are spelled out clearly in the
Chao also announced that three contracts have been awarded
to commercial service entities to provide UAV traffic manage-
ment (UTM) services to include flight planning, communications,
separation assurance and weather data for drones flying below
400 ft. off the ground, the current FAA standard.
Awarded contracts to participate in a UTM pilot project
through September 2019 were the Nevada UAS Test Site based
in Las Vegas, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks,
North Dakota, and the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation
Partnership in Blacksburg, Virginia.
FAA will soon release a “safe and secure operations”
advanced NPRM to seek public comment on its efforts to
reduce public safety and national security risks of operating
New drone regulations would tighten rules in some countries, relax them in others
Flight cancellations after drone sightings at London Gatwick Airport left thousands of