Dagenham model aeroplane club offers help to keep drone users airborne after new laws come into force
PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 December 2019
A model aeroplane club is inviting people with drones to become members and avoid their aircraft getting grounded under new laws.
Dagenham Model Aero Club's "magnificent men" and their "flying machines" meet every week at Central Park in Rainham Road North, where their model aeroplanes can be seen looping, diving and rolling - weather permitting.
It's a hobby that is subject to strict rules, including flying safely, keeping airborne models in sight, soaring no higher than 400 feet and not operating in restricted areas.
Until last month, use of drones - unmanned aerial vehicles - was more relaxed, but new rules have come into force.
Drone operators now have to pass an online test about using them safely and legally. They also need to register with regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.
The clamp down comes amid fears of drones striking real aircraft and concern over their use smuggling drugs into prisons.
Which is why the club is stepping in, offering to train drone pilots and spark a wider interest in the hobby.
Club vice-chairman, Stephen Adams, said: "[Drones] have got such a bad press because of a few idiots. If we can encourage people to fly legally it's good for us and for them."
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Members of the club - officially established in 1948 - are offering instruction and help for people to meet the British Model Flying Association's standard (BMFA).
Doing so allows operators to fly without a qualified person present.
Club secretary, Neal Price, said: "The days of people saying, 'It's my drone, I can fly where I want', are gone. You could now face a hefty fine. If you're a BMFA member, you've got £25million third party insurance."
Members of Dagenham's club are all insured through the organisation.
But membership at about £59 for an adult offers more besides, including learning how aircraft work and how to handle engines.
"It's the camaraderie of the club as well and the advice we can offer," Neal said.
Stephen added: "Plus you're out in the fresh air instead of stuck on the computer."
"[The hobby is] a lot more accessible than it was. We would offer advice on building [model planes] and are happy to pass on our experience," Neal said.
For more about the club and to get in touch visit dagmac.bmfa.org