UK retailer Maplins starts selling the Phantom, then its own staff disregard aviation laws

It was inevitable to happen sooner or later that UAV technology, was bound to become more accessible via retail channels in the United Kingdom but there was the fear in doing so that safety advice, aviation legal advice and plain common sense could go out of the window in the process.

Unfortunately no sooner has Maplins been featured on BBC Radio 2 this week about the fact they were selling “drones” to customers, one of Maplin’s own staff just decided to take a Phantom for a spin around a car park over members of the public, the incident is believed to have been at the Huddersfield branch and was already the talk on social media and had been shared and downloaded before it was pulled from YouTube following criticism.

It is considered bad practice to fly over people, vehicles or near property which isn’t in your control, the CAA recently reminded UAV flyers in the UK they are breaking the law if they don’t adhere to the following rules:

• An unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided ‘line of sight’ of the person operating it. This is generally measured as 500m horizontally or 400ft vertically.
• An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50m distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure.
• An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must not be flown within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.

The CAA doesn’t consider the breach of the law as trivial and recently proved this by winning a court case against a UAV hobbyist: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/02/uk-first-drone-conviction

The Phantom being a fully fledged UAV (we don’t like the word drone), is listed as it should be, as being for sale to over 18’s only, yet it is incorrectly categorised as a toy.

To date the Phantom has primarily been available via specialised RC (Radio Controlled) and video specialists which provide detailed advice and support so customers don’t harm themselves or others.

Without properly trained staff selling to the public, incidents like this will occur.  Hopefully following this incident, Maplins will fully train all its staff rather than point the finger at one individual who likely was unaware of the risks and laws.

Anyone in any doubt about if the Phantom is a toy, should watch this recent video (warning: shows blood and injuries): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji3Hii_LZOc

The Hudderfield Examiner has since reported on the incident here (albeit they’ve used a photo of the much smaller Hubsan in error): http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/huddersfield-firm-fall-foul-civil-7125987

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