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Drone pilot registration to be set up in Channel Islands

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DRONE users will soon be required to join a register in the Channel Islands, with authorities in Jersey and Guernsey set to follow the UK in clamping down on irresponsible usage of the devices.

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New laws, which will introduce mandatory registration, are planned to be passed by November in Jersey and Guernsey in line with new legislation in the UK announced by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling earlier this week.

The move follows the prolonged closure of Gatwick shortly before Christmas after a drone was spotted flying over the airport, causing the cancellation of 760 flights over a few days.

The UK government plans to extend the current no-fly zone for drones around UK airports from 1km to 5 km and introduce a mandatory registration scheme for operators of drones weighing 250 grammes to 20 kilogrammes.

Police are also set to receive additional powers to deal with offenders, while anti-drone technology will be tested at UK airports.

In the Channel Islands, a larger no-fly zone of two nautical miles for drones already exists but there is no registration scheme at present.

Dominic Lazarus, the Channel Islands’ director of civil aviation, said that they were planning to increase restrictions in the islands at the same the UK passed its new legislation, which is expected to be November.

‘We have got more restrictions already – our exclusion zone is two nautical miles, which is around four kilometres,’ he said. ‘That zone includes most of St Ouen’s Bay, so we are happy with where we are at the moment. But we are keeping a close eye on what is going on in the UK – really they should have already introduced what they are planning to some time ago.

‘The new legislation coming out in the UK also means that the users of any drones which weigh over 250 grammes will need to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and that’s coming in November.

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‘They are also extending police powers and if you are caught flying a drone in an exclusion zone you could, I think, get fined up to £1,000.

‘We would like to introduce registration at the same time as the UK and will be working closely with the UK Civil Aviation Authority on this. We will have to see what happens. This may include bar codes being placed on the drones, or some sort of tracking.’

Mr Lazarus added that he would be working with the States in both islands to help prepare new legislation.

He said that drone usage was an issue in the islands, in particular amateur users operating in St Ouen’s Bay.

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‘Most drones are about 7 kg to 8 kg, have cameras on and people know what they are doing with them,’ he said.

‘The problem we get is when someone, let’s say, gets a drone for Christmas and then takes it out. They may not know there is the exclusion zone, which covers most of the west of the Island.

‘Last year we had a problem with someone flying a drone in the bay before the International Air Display.’

He added that there were no plans in the Channel Islands at this time to follow the UK’s plans to trial anti-drone technology.

Guidelines on responsible drone usage in Jersey can be found on the director of civil aviation’s website at cidca.aero or on Ports of Jersey’s web page at ports.je.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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