The UK government is clamping down on drone owners and considering giving them a knowledge or situational awareness test, which would be similar to a driving theory exam. According to the Department for Transport, it is unclear at this stage if the exam will be voluntary or mandatory.
The new drone rules are part of a document drawn up by the government entitled, 'Unlocking the UK's High Tech Economy: Consultation on the Safe Use of Drones in the UK.'
While there are already strict rules for drone users, the unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as UAVs — which can operate under remote control or autonomously by on-board computers, have become increasingly widespread and are cheaply available in high street shops and online.
Their popularity has led to a spike in the number of near-misses with passenger jets, with aviation chiefs receiving reports of 56 near-miss incidents in the 10 months to October — up from 29 in all of the previous year and six in 2014.
It is believed that the rules will keep casual pilots of drones in check while encouraging more research to be done by the private sector.
"This consultation sets out the Government's ambition to realise the benefits drones can bring to the UK — by creating the conditions for the cutting edge commercial use of drones to create high tech jobs, improve services and boost the economy — whilst addressing safety, security and privacy challenges and concerns that drones present," the report states.
In addition to the examination other proposals will be to implement an online registration scheme that pilots will need to complete for quadcopters weighing 250 grams or more, this weight threshold will also apply to the theoretical test. The owner of the drone would need to register it, before it takes its first flight and will also have to pay a fee to do so.
The government is also interested in electronic tagging; however the technology for this is not yet available. As a result government officials are considering an app that pilots would need to use before each flight.
Other proposals include testing facilities, which will allow the owner to fly their drone in a quiet rural area. Although none of these ideas have been finalized as of yet, the government has recognized that there are problems with drone ownership in the UK and have put forward these proposals and ways in which to mitigate the risks.