Up, up and away

wildgardendroneshotWith Christmas fading into distant memory for many of us, some of the more successful gifts will hopefully remain an enjoyable distraction, if not even a daily pleasure. Judging from sightings buzzing over the Village Green in Milton, there is little doubt that drones – that is, unmanned aircraft – featured high on many Christmas wish lists this year, both for the young and young at heart. A recent trip to Hamley’s toy shop had three year olds, their grandparents and everyone in between, gawping at their fluid movement, seemingly indestructible chassis and mesmerising flashing lights.

Drone technology is being developed wonderfully in a multitude of arenas from Coastguard rescue operations to photography in unreachable areas, with American food chains even working towards replacing food delivery vans with drones capable of delivering hot food! Sadly there are those who exploit the technology, as was witnessed in the Christmas Gatwick Airport chaos. This and other recent episodes have caused the Government to step up efforts to ensure safe drone use across the UK with the requirement to register drones weighing more than 250g with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) from November 2019.

Thankfully, models seen around the Wychwoods are more innocent and recreational than the rather more sophisticated models involved at Gatwick, but for those of us with drones – my family included – the CAA Drone Code (dronesafe.uk) is a good starting point to be sure they are being used within the law. Guidance is clearly set out. For example, flying above a height of 400 feet above the ground is illegal. Furthermore, drones must not be flown within 50 metres of a vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the pilot nor within 50m of people. The restrictions do not apply to persons under the control of the pilot. Drones equipped with cameras are not permitted to fly over or within 150m of congested areas while some organisations such as the National Trust and English Heritage have strict limits about drone use on or over their sites.

Drone misuse is now under the remit of the Police and drone retailers are increasingly signing up to be ‘DroneSafe approved’ to enable consumers to be certain of buying from trustworthy and responsible suppliers.

It was wonderful to have such a fabulous example of the capability of amateur drone cameras in the Autumn edition of this magazine – taken with permission I must add; and another one accompanies this article. Hopefully drone users in the Wychwoods will avoid having their machines impounded so that we can enjoy many more photos of this quality in editions to come. Meanwhile, if anyone would like to trial a drone home delivery of a fish and chip van supper, I am more than willing to be the happy recipient. Happy flying!

Jenny Miller

February – March 2019