Police to clamp down on illegal use of drones

POLICE are to clamp down on the illegal use of drones, with children who received them as Christmas presents facing ‘severe penalties’ if they play with them in the street.

POLICE are to clamp down on the illegal use of drones, with children who received them as Christmas presents facing ‘severe penalties’ if they play with them in the street.

Former Army sergeant Ricky Huntley, 31, who flew drones for 15 years for the army in Afghanistan and Iraq, said: “There are now masses of drones out there and a lot of people who don’t know how to use them or what regulations they have to abide by.

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“This is not an issue that should be taken lightly. People really have to clue themselves up or face a conversation with the police – or worse, a trip to court.”

Mr Huntley, who has trained police officers in the Met Police on how to fly drones safely, said: “If you buy a drone you should be given guidance on what you can and can’t do.

“People are already being prosecuted.The police are clueing themselves up, they will stop and intervene and it’s therefore likely there will be more court cases.

“In big cities like Glasgow or London, where there is a specific terror threat, they will have to clamp down.”

Guidelines from the Civil Aviation Authority state that drones, which were originally designed for military use, must be flown within sight.

They must also be at least 50 metres away from a person, vehicle or building, and at least 150 metres away from a congested area.

On top of that drones weighing more than 7kg require a special licence, which takes at least three days of training and costs up to £1,000 to obtain.

Those who break these rules could face criminal sanctions, including imprisonment.

Experts are now warning parents to think carefully before letting their children loose with the unmanned aircraft.

Drones - which retail for as little as £20 - were one of the hottest presents this festive season.

Sales were up 100 per cent on last year, with electronic giant Maplin selling 20,000 alone.

However, they have been linked to a number of near-misses with commercial aircraft, criminals using them to smuggle drugs into jail and even peeping toms, who attach cameras to them.

Earlier this month shock footage of Austrian downhill skier Marcel Hirscher narrowly missing being crushed by a crashing camera drone emerged.

Llegal firms are “gearing up for a wave of lawsuits” as a result of potential injury claims.

Some specialists have even started putting together dedicated teams to handle claims from drone injuries.

Tristan Hallam, principle lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “Our experts have warned drones are a ticking time-bomb and as a result it’s only a matter of time before we begin drone injury cases.

“It used to be security fears, but now drones can be bought by anyone and cause very serious injury.”

Parents could also find themselves facing expensive and protracted legal action as a result of their children’s poor flying skills.

Liability following an accident automatically falls on the owner of the drone.

In the days after Christmas, Police Scotland reminded drone owners they could be charged if they ignored the regulations.

They also urged owners of the devices to read up on the law before taking to the skies.

Last year, counter-terrorism experts warned passenger jets were being put at risk on a weekly basis from drones being flown too close.

Planes at Heathrow, Birmingham and London City airports all came close to crashing into drones which had illegally strayed into forbidden airspace.

In Ireland new laws demand that all drones weighing more than 1kg must be registered with the aviation authorities.