If this was a movie and you were the person asking the question above to a lawyer, the answer would probably be ‘That is a really good question’. Given that drones have evolved to unsuspected levels during the past few years – becoming utterly accessible to the masses along the way – we’re facing a rare scenario in which the law didn’t have time to fully catch up with the new reality.
In legal terms, drones are defined as ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems’ (RPAS), and their usage hasn’t been properly regulated yet. As a matter of fact, the subject has been addressed by a number of national and regional institutions, including the EU Committee, the Secretary of State for Transport, the Parliament, and the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA). While there are rules and hints of how to proceed with drones aimed at commercial usage – including aerial house inspections – conclusive legislation has not yet been settled.
It’s A Bird…It’s A Plane…It’s A Drone!
A majority of the drones available for commercial usage fall under a specific CAA category, which is ‘small unmanned aircraft’. This category encompasses aircraft that weighs up to 20 kg – including attached equipment. The CAA provides the rules that must be met by both the aircraft and the operator, and these include:
- A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
- The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
- The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels, and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
- The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft:
- In Class A, C, D, or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained.
- Within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained; or
- At a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.
- The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of commercial operations except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
In addition, the government has expressed its intention of allowing extended leisure and commercial drone usage, saying that as such ‘recognises and supports the development of RPAS technology’. For subjects related to safety, the official words are that the ‘industry should come together to identify a solution that works for the small RPAS community without creating additional burdens that will increase costs for their operations.
Final Words On Drones And House Inspections
Of course, special circumstances may have an impact on commercial drone operations, and drone operators must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) at all times. So now you know: if you’re willing to apply for a commercial drone permit you’ll have to comply with a few rules. For more more useful information on how to get a permit you can visit the CAA’s website.
If you have any legal concerns about using drones then get in touch with us for a full range of free quotes.