Sorry for the long absence: it turns out that PhD research and having an 8-month-old daughter end up sucking up any free time I might otherwise have.
From the BBC comes this article about how the House of Lords feels that regulating private unmanned drones (which are essentially glorified RC helicopters) is necessary. Part of those regulations include a database that would register “businesses and other professional users, and then later expand to encompass consumers”.
The committee chairwoman said, “[W]e need to find ways to manage and keep track of drone traffic. That is why a key recommendation is that drone flights must be traceable, effectively through an online database, which the general public could access via an app.”
Who is “we” and why should drone flights be traceable via an online database or app? Would people flying a drone at the park need to file flight plans?
They also want to impose rules mandating “geofencing”, where the drones are programmed with “no-fly zones”, as if technically-inclined hobbyists (who are the main operators of non-governmental drones) aren’t going to tinker around and remove those restrictions.
One of the talking heads on the BBC TV program discussing this subject said something along the lines of “In America when one buys a firearm, they need to register it. It should be the same here in Britain with drones.” Of course, that’s not true: very few states require gun registration, and there’s no observed benefit when states do require it.
It appears that the House of Lords thinks bad guys intending to use a drone for malicious purposes care about violating some aviation-related rule or would have second thoughts about stripping out “no-fly” restrictions from the drone’s software. Mandating that users register is silly as a means of preventing bad guys from getting drones, as bad guys would simply provide false information, buy them in other countries, etc. Same thing with guns.
The current rules regarding unmanned aircraft are pretty reasonable, and I see no reason why one should need or want to change them:
[The Civil Aviation Authority] prohibits unmanned aircraft from flying closer than 150m (492ft) to any congested area, or within 50m (164ft) of any vessel, vehicle or structure that is not in the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
The CAA typically bans the use of drones weighing over 20kg (44lb), but lower than that weight they can be used if they remain in the operator’s line of sight.