Drone pilots to risk fixed-penalty fines in the UK

Adam with mock up Fixed Penalty Notice
(Image credit: Future)

The UK government is set to introduce fixed penalties and on-the-spot fines for breaches of the UK drone rules, according to an upcoming interview with Andy Harding, head of the UK's National Police Chief Council's Counter Drone Team.

Clips of an interview discussing this have already been shown of the interview, which is teasing a full interview coming on Sean Hickey's Geeksvana YouTube channel. 

Harding is also clear that the project "Will be moving soon," though seems a little unsure what soon means when it comes to the processes of government. "But it's there, it is going to come", and police officers will be able to fine drone operators breaking the rules with a fixed penalty notice.

The advantage, according to Harding, is that it prevents people from needing to go to court because they "will only ever be issued in circumstances a law has been broken." The fines have not yet been set, and – like other fixed penalties – the recipient can also challenge them and request a court date.

UK drone laws have seen a lot of fluctuation in recent years, having become something of a hot potato balancing public fear and irritation, after an alleged drone closed London's Gatwick Airport for over a day. From the other side of Whitehall, the government is desperate to promote opportunities for UAV businesses, like the Drone Superhighway.

Brexit, too, has been a significant factor, especially for consumers, and not just because prices rose. As politicians sought to re-write or replace European legislation in a so-called "bonfire of the regulations," the long-planned logical C0-C4 weight classification system – which many UK customers had planned purchases around – was ditched.

The primary legislation in question, the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021, effectively leaves a blank for the minister to fill in – secondary legislation.

How will the offenses be defined? It's not yet clear, but according to the law the notice must at least explain the issue (or "give reasonable particulars"), while more serious issues, where the pilot was deliberately acting unlawfully, will still need to go to court. Like motoring offenses, the law also allows for a lower amount to be charged if payment is made in 14 days.

All we can do is strongly suggest you check if you're on the right side of regulation & registration – and in the UK that also affects drones under 250g like the Mini 3 because it has a camera. 

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Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook