3D Robotics

UK Police: FPV is "an offense"

3689670573?profile=originalFrom Wired

Police attempting to make an arrest for "negligent" use of drones have been instructed not to attempt to land the craft themselves -- in case they accidentally hit the public.

The suggested course of action? Just wait -- for the battery to run out.

The advice is included in 28-pages of guidance, provided to WIRED, on how police officers should deal with the misuse of drones by the public.

The document details a checklist that officers should stick to when they think a crime is being committed by someone flying a drone. 

Officers -- who are told "drone is a word that the Police Service has steered away from using in the past" -- are told not to "criminalise innocent misuse" of drones, but are reminded to bear in mind national security, public safety, and the prevention of "traditional crime" when drones are involved.

The guidance, which hasn't been published before but was issued to all forces this year, was created in response to the increasing use of drones for personal and professional means.

The document and its annexes set out the procedure, legislation, and frequently asked questions that officers may have to answer when they're faced by someone with a drone.

Officers are told:

  • They shouldn't try to take control of the drone "UNLESS EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES EXIST," such as a threat to life or damage to property. Officers are told: "Trying to land the system yourself may cause the drone to crash leading to a very real risk of injury to persons and damage to property (in addition to destroying the drone)."  
  • If the person is wearing first person goggles, showing them footage from the drone as they fly it, "they commit an offence. The pilot should be able to see the aircraft with the naked eye at all times."
  • To "ask to see the footage of anything recorded" despite not having "power to demand this or require its removal," unless the person is suspected of terrorism related offences.
  • If the drone's in the air "currently the only option open to you is to instruct the pilot to land the drone".
  • If the person refuses to land the drone "waiting is likely to be the most appropriate option" as its battery will run out.
  • There is a "concern" that terrorists could use drones to "obtain information through hostile reconnaissance". 
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  • Our police in the UK will view this as all Drones are illegal, they are not good at knowing what is a legal use and what is not :(


  • I wonder if the safety of drones could be improved not only by better electronics (RTL etc), but also simply by adding a protection to the propellers, as several drones already do. Maybe also adding a small parachute that would open in case some event happens which could be detected electronically (maybe a free fall, or a motor issue). The added weight of a parachute and servo would be very small for medium-large drones.

    Regarding the article, the sentence I find intriguing is :

    If the drone's in the air "currently the only option open to you is to instruct the pilot to land the drone".

    The word "currently" means they're thinking about other means to land the drone, and several have already be presented on this site, but however I think it will be interesting to see which method will be used.

  • @davidbuzz the law is really not the issue, it is more people (that appears to include the police unfortunately) not knowing it. There is already a good legal framework in place in the UK for recreational and also for commercial use of UAVs.

  • [If the person is wearing first person goggles, showing them footage from the drone as they fly it, "they commit an offence. The pilot should be able to see the aircraft with the naked eye at all times."]

    In the UK FPV is legal up to 1000ft by this CAA rule: http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=33&pagetype=65&...

    A little bit worrying that the police is so misinformed. Leading to cases like this: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/licensed-bbc-drone-o...  where a licensed operator got arrested and the police struggled to land his hex.

  • Moderator

    Its not 72 Mhz its 35 Mhz, the article is a little sensationalist and scrapes together facts. I'm sure UK operators will be in touch with the author to correct him. The UK has some of the best FPV and commercial UA regs in the world. This is not a repeat of the USA where nobody has stepped up to formalise FPV with the FAA.

    The UK police pretty much abandoned RPA experiments on the back of products being overpriced and under delivering, Just this week four forces have started experiments with Inspires.

    The early stuff might have been too soon.

  • I think a 72Hz radio might have a bandwidth problem...

  • Moderator

    That airframe ended up in the Mersey and the Police force in question was the first group to get a warning in 2008 when they did not comply with the rules that had recently come into being.


    This is part of new guidance issued to air traffic. The immediate action drill is to call and dispatch the Police, FPV is not illegal in the UK in fact its allowed up to 1000' but only in sensible areas.

    Not flying like this for instance



  • Developer

    if "FPV is illegal", it's not the drones or the users that's the problem, it's the laws. :-)

  • That officer needs to switch to 2.4G or 445MHz radio. That 72Hz radio is susceptible to noise/interference!!!

  • I first saw this very photograph in 2008 on BBC under the headline "Big Brother is Watching Us". In fact it was this photograph that inspired me to engage in UAV technology for mapping, thus starting an exciting new phase in my land surveying career. 

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