Be prepared for drone danger, says top agricultural lawyer
The Midlands’ leading agricultural lawyer has urged farmers and landowners to protect themselves against potential damage from the growing use of drones.
Steven Corfield, head of FBC Manby Bowdler’s Agricultural & Rural Services team, said people should make sure they are insured against problems that might be caused by the airborne devices over farmland.
Steven said: “On April 18, an Airbus A320 with 132 passengers approaching Heathrow was hit by a drone and not surprisingly this has increased awareness of the dangers of flying drones.
“Drones can cause damage to people, livestock and buildings, even if they are licensed and operated properly. The use of airborne drones has developed at a staggering pace and the legal system is trying to catch up with the regulation necessary to control them.”
Steven, who was named at the leading agricultural lawyer in Shropshire and the West Midlands last year, said there had also been unreported cases involving potential damage to persons and livestock.
“In day-to-day life, it is understandable that the police, security and emergency services need to make use of drones as they are an efficient and economical way to carry out surveillance. The Civil Aviation Authority has set some rules on who can operate drones and under what conditions but the difficulty for a lot of landowners is the infringement that comes from smaller drones which are bought for hobby use,” he added.
Civil Aviation Authority rules currently state that an unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided line of sight of the person operating the drone – this is generally measured as 500 metres (1,640 feet) horizontally or 122 metres (400 feet) vertically.
Anyone using a drone for commercial use has to have permission from the CAA in which respect the operator has to show that they are “sufficiently competent” and if the drone is over 20kg, it is only legal to use it in certain certified “danger areas” which are closely monitored.
An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50 metres distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure and it must not be flown within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.
Steven added: “Land and livestock owners should make sure their insurance policies cover damage caused by drones whether it’s to people, buildings or livestock.
“Animals could easily get spooked by the use of even a small drone which could cause injury or death and that has financial implications for a farmer. Likewise people who use drones would be well advised to insure themselves against damage caused by their drones in case they face legal action from a farmer or landowner.”
The Civil Aviation Authority does have the power to stop drones flying in specified zones if there are security issues.
FBC Manby Bowdler is the only Shropshire firm to receive a top tier ranking in current Legal 500 guide and Steven and colleague Sarah Baugh were both credited as ‘notable practitioners’ in the 2016 Chambers independent guide.
FBC Manby Bowdler has offices in Shrewsbury, Telford and Bridgnorth and Steven can be contacted on 01743 266268 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org