Personal drone registration will become necessary, U.K. Lords say

A U.K House of Lords committee has recommended that, in the long term, people operating drones for leisure may need to register them so their owners can be traced.

The House’s European Union Committee issued a report on Thursday into various aspects of drone regulation. It said there would soon be a need for commercial drone operators to register their flights somewhere, so as to keep airspace safe, but it also noted that hobbyist or leisure-use drones were on the increase, and this may cause issues in the long run.

The committee said there were many potential benefits to civilian use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), so “we certainly do not support banning the leisure use of RPAS,” but it laid out several recommendations on how to maintain safety.

A licensing regime or the use of digital identity chips in the drones are some of the options that were raised by industry and police representatives, leading to the following recommendation:

We have already recommended the creation of an online database through which commercial RPAS pilots can provide details of their flights to inform other airspace users. We heard compelling arguments as to why the leisure use of RPAS presents risks to the general public and other airspace users. Therefore, in the long term, we foresee the need for a system which can track and trace all RPAS, especially those flying below 500ft, irrespective of whether they are flown by commercial or leisure pilots. This will be essential not only to manage the increased traffic in the sky, but also to enforce existing and future laws governing RPAS use.

The committee also said it was keen on having media campaigns and messages in drone packaging to remind people that they’re flying aircraft, and encourage them to do so safely. It also pushed for geo-fencing features, which bring down drones when they encounter the borders of restricted areas, to be made more widely available.

The report was a response to communications issued by the European Commission on the subject of drones, and will be debated by the wider House of Lords.

On the issue of drone-enabled state surveillance, the committee said this was “beyond the scope of this inquiry … but the acceptability of state use of RPAS should be subject to urgent public debate.” It also recommended that, given privacy concerns, media regulators should launch a public consultation on the use of drones for reporting.