Is it time to restrict sale of drones and license them for certain uses?

The deployment of drones opens up a whole new ball game and councils using them to check up on plann

The deployment of drones opens up a whole new ball game and councils using them to check up on planning applications might just be a bridge too far. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Technology whizzes along at such a pace that even the young sometimes struggle to keep up.

Mobile phones have so much computing power that you need a degree to operate them, television offers programmes on demand from yonks ago, open a car bonnet and what amounts to a combustion engine seems to rely more on electronic circuits than petrol.

Drones are one of the latest gizmos becoming more popular. The name comes from their bigger cousins, the unmanned aircraft developed by the military, whose capabilities are quite frightening. Big ones can bomb a target with great precision, controlled in offices continents away.

Smaller ones can observe and beam back information from sensitive areas without risking pilots' lives.

The small recreational versions are becoming a favourite toy and their popularity is worrying airports as some idiots have been flying them close to flight paths where the dangers are pretty obvious.


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More insidious is their use by some councils where it is reported that planning departments are starting to use them to check up on builders and developers.

Well, fair enough, you might say. If regulations are being flouted, a drone is an inexpensive way to track infringements without risk of council employees being subject to abuse and, if fitted with cameras, they will provide proof of unapproved activity.

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We have come to accept that in many places we are watched. Security cameras in towns and public buildings are there to catch thieves, monitor drunks out on a Saturday night and so on.

And, as proved by a recent television series, anyone can be tracked using security cameras and mobile phone signals and where bank cards are used. It is increasingly difficult to get below the radar, so to speak.

So far only the police and similar agencies have access to that information.

But the deployment of drones opens up a whole new ball game and councils using them to check up on planning applications might just be a bridge too far.

Most people would not be so daft to fly one near an airport, but there are those who might think it a laugh to buzz a plane landing at Norwich airport.

If people are daft enough to target a plane using a laser – and the consequences of temporarily blinding a pilot when he or she is about to land are horrendous – they might just be stupid enough to see how close they could get a drone to an airliner.

You don't need a licence to buy one or to use it. And they are getting cheaper by the day and more efficient. It's the old debate between privacy and policing.

So is it time to restrict the sale of drones and license them for certain uses? After all you don't want some little toerag buzzing your back garden or filming you sunbathing au naturel... even if it is to check whether planning regulations are being observed.

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