Royal Assent has been given to the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill yesterday, so it will become an Act shortly.
I couldn’t see a final version of the Bill at Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 publications - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament but the version https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0257/200257lp.pdf seems near-final.
How does this affect drone users? It’s basically a case of “Your papers, please”.
Get in the habit of carrying your registration, competence and Article 16 paperwork with you (electronically is fine); and also confirmation emails from an ATC if you are flying in an FRZ. The police will get new powers to stop you and demand you provide evidence that you are compliant with drone regulation requirements.
Although there are lots of regulations and offenses related to drones, the police have previously lacked powers to get evidence. If they asked you to stop flying your drone or to show them your competence certificate, you could refuse (unless they had reasonable suspicion you were committing a crime). Under Schedule 9 of the new law, they can stop you and ask for your paperwork whether or not they think you’re doing anything wrong.
They will now be able to ask you to provide evidence that you comply with any competence requirement (e.g. A2 CofC) in the Open or Specific category (i.e. this includes flights under Article 16 or GVC/PfCO). They can also ask you for evidence that the drone is registered, and to provide the identity of the Pilot/Operator (to help them confirm the registration).
If you’re within an FRZ, they can now ask you to provide proof you have the ATC’s consent. They can ask for any consent required under the Air Navigation Order - they can’t ask for evidence of any other consents that may be required e.g. from landowners.
They can now require you to let them inspect your drone (presumably to check for the registration number, or to check the weight). Obviously that means you can be required to land it if they ask you to.
If you don’t have any of the paperwork or evidence with you, you get seven days to present them at a police station.
Under Schedule 10 minor offences under the drone legislation can now be dealt with via Fixed Penalty Notices (minor generally meaning anything that hasn’t caused nuisance, damage, endangered an aircraft etc - the serious stuff still goes to court). I’d guess it could be an FPN for not having a registration number displayed, for example.
The new legislation includes a power for the government to later amend it to include other evidence for the police to demand. I’m guessing that could include evidence about electronic conspicuity systems working correctly, if/when that becomes widely required.
If I’ve read it all correctly, these new powers come into force at the end of June (two months from date of Royal Assent). It’s quite possible I’ve not read it all correctly, so apologies if I’ve got anything wrong.