Update: Green light for Amazon drone pilot



David Sullivan
David Sullivan

David Sullivan, director at Belfast firm Sullivans Law, writes an update on the regulation of drones in the UK.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has relaxed the rules surrounding Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), or ‘drones’, to enable Amazon to trial technology for delivery of packages within certain areas in the UK.

At present, there are rules in place governing the operation of drones:

1. Your drone must be kept within your line of sight;

2. You can’t fly:

  • At a height of over 400 feet,
  • Near to an airport or in controlled airspace,
  • Over or within 150 metres of a congested area such as a town or city,
  • Over or within 150 metres of a crowd of more than 1000 people,
  • Within 50 metres of any person, structure, vessel or vehicle if your drone has a camera fitted.

3. In addition, a drone cannot be flown commercially without a permit from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

With Amazon, special permission is to be given to test, in a controlled environment, the safety of drones operating beyond the existing UK legal framework.

This is to include the testing of “sense and avoid” technology, which is designed to enable a drone to take action to avoid collisions.

Whilst amendments to the law could give effect to this new technology, it had to be borne in mind that such a change will only affect the criminal law.  This may, in turn, lead to some interesting discussions relating to the civil law concepts of privacy and trespass.

  • David Sullivan is a director at Belfast firm Sullivans Law.