Aside from learning its controls, one of the most fiddly aspects of owning a drone is knowing where it’s legal to fly it. Fortunately, a new app from the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) has been created to help guide drone flyers.
When you’re driving or walking you can generally rely on ‘keep off the grass’ or ‘no entry’ signs to keep you out of places you shouldn’t be. When it comes to flying drones, however, the helpful signs are generally less, well, existent.
There are of course the obvious places you shouldn’t fly a drone such as near an airport, but when it comes to your local area it’s not always clear when you’re entering a restricted airspace; flying a drone is probably not how you thought you’d end up breaking the law at your nearest park.
Making things clear
The NATS app, called Drone Assist, helps users by providing a map that indicates when they’re in or near an area where the airspace is used by commercial air traffic. It will also highlight dangerous obstacles such as power lines or public buildings like schools or sports stadiums which could have privacy restrictions.
Being the UK’s main provider of air traffic services, NATS is the perfect organisation to create such an app and the hope is that by making it quick and easy to access airspace regulation information there will be less instances of dangerous drone incidents.
According to the UK Airprox board (a body that works alongside the Civil Aviation Authority to enhance air safety) there have been around 50 drone incidents this year. This might not sound like a huge number, but considering there were only 11 in 2015, it's clear it's a problem that rapidly needs to be addressed.
Being a relatively new technology that’s only recently entered the mainstream, it’s understandable that consumer knowledge of drone ownership laws is fairly fuzzy. The basics are to remember not to fly near airports or aircraft, to stay under 400 feet, and to keep your drone in your sights at all times.
Of course, the official laws are more in depth and complicated than this but apps such as Drone Assist should greatly help clear up many uncertainties. Drone Assist is free to download on both iOS and Android now.
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Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.