By Michele Aaen, Owner of Drone Scotland

I RECKON I have one of the best jobs in the world. Every day I get a bird’s eye view of the Scottish landscape, especially spectacular at this time of year with snowcapped bens and golden foliage.

Yes, I am fanatical about drones and I am afraid I do love to drone on about them.

The rise of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles has opened up new horizons. It is estimated that within 10 years, 76,000 commercial drones will fill our skies. As a specialist, fully insured, drone company regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, we see the huge benefits for society – filming, high-precision data, accurate mapping, health and safety, construction reporting, environmental monitoring ... even delivering your shopping.

The value to our economy through efficiencies and new business could be worth £18billion to the UK’s GDP and 600,000 new jobs according to analysis by PwC. Of which construction and manufacturing are set to be major beneficiaries with a potential GDP increase of £8.6 billion in the UK alone.

Consumers are following that commercial trend with drones now part of Santa’s wish list; more than 1.5 million in all shapes and sizes were sold over the Christmas period last year.

However, a drone is just not for Christmas. The wrong drone in the wrong untrained hands can cause chaos. This time last year alleged rogue drones closed Gatwick Airport for 36 hours, cancelling flights and disrupting thousands of holidaymakers. And there have been 100s of reported near misses, the latest when one flying at an illegal height came within close proximity of an air ambulance in Bradford.

At the moment anyone can walk into a high street store or browse a website and pick up a drone with a maximum speed of 45mph and a range of seven miles. That changes from the end of this month when if you buy a drone weighing more than 250g (virtually all the ones you see on the high street bar the smallest toys) you will need an operator ID and to sit an online competency test.

Police have powers to seize drones and penalties for misuse include unlimited fines and up to five years in prison: a response which we fully support and promote. “Is it safe?” and “is it legal?” are the two considerations that all commercial and hobbyist remote pilots should consider before any flight.

By forcing operators to register for IDs and pass competency tests, the Government is making it easier to tackle illegal and unsafe drone flights. No longer should the “I didn’t know’” excuse work.

Liability now truly sits with the remote pilot. So from the end of this month, illegal/unsafe operators are either flying without the right approval or are not flying to the rules as per their test. This will help create a clear distinction between fun toy drones and those, that in the wrong hands, can cause disruption and, potentially, damage.

We don’t want to discourage anyone from asking Santa for a drone this Christmas. There are plenty of small but beautiful machines on the market under that 250g limit. And, we can offer training to those who want to enjoy larger drones whilst remaining on the correct side of the law.

The new laws are not a silver bullet, but when we still hear individuals advising others to just “stick a drone’” up clearly something has to change.

After all you cannot take to the roads with a car without sitting a test. So it makes sense that the same checks should apply to anyone taking to the air with a drone that has the power to endanger lives.