Airline pilots today welcomed a government consultation on drone safety rules.

The Department for Transport is instigating the discussion which could result in users being required to register drones.

The government says it is committed to taking steps to protect the public and tackle irresponsible or illegal behavior, while while recognising the huge economic benefit drones can bring.

The consultation comes against a backdrop of increasing numbers of near misses with drones reported by airline pilots.

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad said while the vast majority of drone users were law-abiding, “some are not aware of the rules or choose to break them putting public safety, privacy and security at risk”.

The new safety measures under consultation include:
• Registration of new drones
• New signage for no-fly zones at sensitive sites such as airports and prisons
• Tougher penalties for illegal flying near no-fly zones
• A drone traffic management system to ensure safety and enable more complex drone operations in the future
• Making drones electronically identifiable so the owner’s details can be passed to police if they are spotted breaking the law.

British Airline Pilots Association flight safety specialist Steve Landells said: “We need to understand more about the threat drones pose and Balpa is working with the government and regulators to ensure this is an issue that’s being taken seriously in the corridors of power.

“Drones are here to stay, and as this technology develops and becomes more important in the aviation world, it is vital they are integrated into the airspace in a safe and sensible manner.”

But he added: “Pilots are concerned about the growing number of near misses and the potential for catastrophe should a collision occur.

“At the same time Balpa believes drone operators, especially hobbyists, need to be made aware of the potential dangers of irresponsible flying.

“We support the DfT in pressing for better education, compulsory registration and high profile prosecution for careless operators.”