European Parliament clears drone regulations for takeoff

Owners of drones weighing over 250 grams will have to register them under proposed EU rules

Calculator, drone by Peter Sayer

Regulations to protect people from falling drones moved a little closer to takeoff at the European Parliament on Thursday.

Ensuring drone safety took on a new urgency this week, with GoPro’s recall of its Karma drone after unexplained mid-air power failures caused a number of them to drop out of the sky.

Under the European Union’s proposed regulations, drones will have to be registered so that their owners can be identified. While that won’t in itself stop drones from falling, it could lead pilots to take their responsibilities more seriously, legislators hope.

A 1-kilogram drone like the Karma falling from as little as 11 meters (around three stories) could kill even someone wearing a safety helmet, according to a calculator developed by the Dropped Object Prevention Scheme, which promotes safety in the oil and gas industry.

Parliament wants to set the threshold for drone registration at 250 grams, almost twice the weight of an iPhone 7. Drones weighing less than that would probably have to fall on someone wearing protective headgear from 40 meters (12 stories) or more to cause a fatality, according to the DROPS calculator — but a careless or irresponsible drone pilot wouldn’t need to kill someone to find themselves in trouble. Much shorter drops could cause injury or property damage.

Legislators are hoping to remove other risks with the regulations, including terrorism. They believe that requiring drones to be identifiable and registered will be sufficient to prevent their use in deliberate attacks.

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