Attention, drone users: Fly responsibly, or face fine

Attention, drone users: Fly responsibly, or face fine
There has been a surge in drone sales this Christmas in the UK, and so aviation authorities are warning users that operating drones irresponsibly could cost an arm and a leg in penalties. So if you received a drone, it is worth repeating the rules.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has released a warning advising people, who operate their drones without due regard to the rules, that they will risk prosecution and a large fine – as much as £5,000 ($8,000).

Drone users are prohibited from operating the devices over highly populated areas and buildings without government permission. Remote-controlled devices can’t be flown over congested areas or within 50 meters of people, or buildings without official approval.

Operators must follow guidelines on their proper usage, Gerry Corbett, CAA’s unmanned aircraft specialist stressed to AP.

The CAA's focus is purely on safety.

“We have seen a number of examples recently of drones being flown within meters of planes coming in to land, which is extremely dangerous and puts the safety of everyone on board, and people on the ground at risk,” the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) safety specialist, Steve Landells, was cited as saying by the Daily Mail.

The price of drones has been steadily declining as the technology gets better, allowing many more people to enjoy these devices. In the UK, they are now priced from between £30 ($47) and £1,000 ($1550). They have also become popular gifts for Christmas this year, retailers say.

"The technology has improved markedly over the last year or so, while individual products, particularly those for the recreational market, have become much more affordable,” Gerry Corbett said.

According to an official cited by AP, the sales of drones have experienced a surge of “around 2,000 a month.”

Earlier this month, British media revealed that an Airbus A320 commercial airliner had a near-miss with a drone on July 22 at an altitude of 700 feet near Heathrow International Airport.

“A 10-kilogram metallic object hitting an engine would cause some pretty bad damage. It is more than theoretical – it is a real risk,” Jim McAuslan, general secretary of Balpa, told the Sunday Times. “They are also generally distracting at the most crucial stage of a flight, when pilots are coming in to land.”

READ MORE: Passenger jet near-miss with drone at Heathrow

The CAA has already had two cases relating to drones this year.

In one of the cases, a man was fined £800 ($1240) for flying a drone over restricted airspace - a nuclear submarine base as well as too close to a vehicle bridge – back in April. Robert Knowles, 46, became the first person to face such prosecution in the UK.