Kite vs Drones Regs continued.
In some quarters much has been made of the difference between permitted flying heights. Drones basically have a general maximum height restriction of 400 feet about ground level without notification to the UK's CAA Airspace Allocation Unit. Kites meanwhile are restricted to 200 feet above ground level.
Why the difference? Well there are two main reasons. The first and perhaps most important is that kites are without doubt not so manoevrable and are attached to a person. To get any kite down from any height quickly takes skill. Where as a drone pilot could drop a drone's altitude very quickly. Coupled with the fact that aircraft in the UK are restricted, except for the purposes of landing and take-off, to fly at a height no lower than 500 feet above ground level. Allowing for any descrepancies in aircraft altimeter settings this gives roughly 300 feet between the kite and the aircraft. In good VFR conditions this should provide the necessary separation between the two.
The second reason may be a little more contenious. For the vast number of drone pilots it is a hobby and requires no official training. However, using drones for commercial photography or film production is very popular, in the UK this requires the pilot to undergo training and gain accreditation it is not a license as such, yet. As the vast majority of this aerial work takes place between 200 - 300 feet and coupled with first reason above; the NATS/CAA have I suppose realised that it would increase their work considerably if they were to monitor this. As I've stated there is already a minimum height rule for piloted aircraft, so 400 feet it has become.
There is also a large increase in the use of drones for agricultural purposes, by the police and SAR services, all at low heights. All of these agencies have accredited training programs for drone operators/pilots. Now that NATS has launched the Drone Assist program this further endorses the rules.
Finally we must not forget that most kite flying is of a recreational nature and 200 feet is more than adequate for normal recreational kite flying, Kite Aerial Photography is a niche pastime. For those of us who need to exceed the 200 feet rule there is a recognised procedure for applying to do so.