As we stride into the New Year we here at LA Media feels buoyed up by the Government’s release of a new consultation document on the Benefits of Drones to the UK. How can the drone market Benefit the UK? Well PwC have estimated that the emerging global aerial market for business services using drones is over £102 billion, which is why the UK Government are keen to grab slice of that pie.
The Teal Group’s 2015 market study estimates the global aerial drone market over the coming decade will grow from £3.22 billion to £11.27 billion by 2025, totalling £74.85 billion in the next ten years – pretty exciting stuff!
On 21 December 2016 the Department of Transport within the UK Government released a consultation document titled “Unlocking the UK’s High Tech Economy: Consultation on the safe use of drones in the UK”. Essentially, they are seeking opinions on how to harness the positive benefits of drones for the public and commercial services. In this blog we will review some of the key points they tackle and share our two cents on the issue.
The UK Government wish to identify a safe path to ensure that the UK captures a large share of this global market. They note that the UK already has a significant share of the registered drone operators in the EU and globally, and that the UK’s proportionate risk-based regulations are already viewed favourably by industry worldwide.
The UK Government believes that new drone business will bring lots of other benefits too. The drone market will contribute to taxes to the public purse, boost local economies, stimulate job growth and lure more investors to the UK. The ultimate goal is to make Britain the global go-to place for new technologies such as drones.
For the full document please visit their website. We have picked out some of the points discussed in the document which we feel able to comment on after nearly four years of commercial drone flying within the UK.
Why we are so happy!
As drone code abiding citizens here at LA Media, we were really pleased to see the government take this step. Firstly, because it acknowledges what we’ve been saying for years – that the drone market has a huge potential for growth and could be quite the money maker for the UK. It is a sector that could keep on expanding while other sectors are still reverberating from Brexit.
Secondly, we are thrilled to see they are tackling the issue of drone safety as this will help shape up some of the cowboy drone operators out there. There needs to be a much clearer guide for drone operators, particularly domestic users.
As Lord (Tariq) Ahamd of Wimbledon, Minister for Aviation at the Department for Transport 2016 states in the consultation document: “The vast majority of drone user are law-abiding and have good intentions…it is likely that some are not aware of the rules.”
Thirdly, we are happy that the government isn’t putting out a dictat. With this document they are seeking consultation from the public / drone community to ensure that legislation is approached sensibly. But it is an important step as drones are developing so fast, it’s hard to keep up with them.
Each month a new drone appears on the market and it feels like every day people are finding new and innovative ways to use them.
Key Points Addressed
- To provide greater drone safety assurance to the public
- Address the increasing demand for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flying in the commercial sector
- To increase engagement with future drone pilots
- To increase Dronecode awareness at point of sale
- To facilitate a supportive innovative environment for drone projects
- Improve the application of geo-fencing as a safety net
- Increase the use of the NATS free drone safety app ‘Drone assist’
- Update drone guidance rules
- To implement drone traffic management system to improve security and safety
- Introduce a mandatory drone registration scheme (possible drone registration cost)
- To find a solution so as to create more drone testing zones
What we think needs further consideration
Better Drone insurance
The government has addressed drone operators concerns with regards to insurance but we feel they need to take a more flexible and comprehensive look at drone insurance. As drone enthusiasts will know not all drones are made equal.
While some are tiny sparrow sized things that won’t cause any damage there are the heavy lift rigs which are essentially huge sky predators. The government needs to decide what size of drone merits what type of insurance.
Another issue that must be addressed with regards to drone insurance is liability: namely how to assess if it is drone failure or pilot error. For example, if you had a fly away and the drone was not recovered (it may have plunged into the North Sea) how will you figure out where liability and responsibility lies? Even if you do get the tatters of your rig back it can still be a real challenge to figure out exactly what went wrong.
Drones are becomming increasingly fail and idiot proof, but, mechanics can – and will – fail at some point.
Drone registration & electronic identification
A big thing that they have adequately addressed is the issue of drone registration. For larger drones – more than 250 grams – all drones may need to be registered. We applaud this move because it will encourage hobbyist to be more careful!
Safer drone flying will help improve the current public perception of drones and keep everybody safe; like having trackable license plates on your car, the police will be able to scan your drone from the ground and find out who exactly flew dangerously near an airport.
Image by LA Media ‘Drone photography in Scotland’
However, we feel that this doesn’t solve the problem of many bespoke self-built drones. Like Bruce Wayne ordering all the bat mobile parts from different countries, a skilled drone builder can make his /her drones untraceable by ordering from various international distributers. We think that it would make more sense for drones to carry an identifier which is specific to the operator/ pilot rather than the drone. This way builders can chop and change as much as they like without having to register each new thing they might build whilst still retaining traceability.
Get involved in the great drone debate
The Public dialogue on drone use in the UK was used to inform the government’s consultation proposal. The closing date for this consultation closes on 15 March 2017. So if you have a bee in your bonnet or think there is something they haven’t addressed make sure you respond.
This is your chance to make an impact on the way the UK develops its drone market. You can respond online here or write to the address given below.
Drones Regulation and Policy Lead
IASE 1/26, Aviation Directorate
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 4DR
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, tell us if we’ve missed something out. If you enjoyed this blog don’t forget to follow us on: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for you daily dose of media & drone chat!