With over 1.5 million drones predicted to have been sold this Christmas, there is no doubt that the drone industry is growing at an incredible rate. Almost 80 years after the first ever drone was developed in 1939 by UAV pioneer, Reginald Denny, a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers report predicts that over 76,000 drones will be in use commercially in the UK by 2030, adding 628K jobs and £42Bn to the value of the UK economy by 2030.

We are dedicated to help be part of this UK success story. Our Academy, www.cuava.co.uk runs two day theory courses in the classroom, followed by a practical flight test at its airfield. Those who pass can apply to the CAA for their PfCO – Permission for Commercial Operations. We are proud to say that we have 100% pass ratefor those who attend all stages of the training process.

 

DRONE USE EXPANSION

Drones are being deployed by the military, agriculture, emergency services, transportation, financial services and construction. This year, we have seen them identifying people lost at sea to enable rescue operations, spotting sharks in the water to warn surfers, and transporting kidneys over hundreds of miles for transplant surgery. Just this week, The Times reported that in India, drones are being used to transport livers for transplant surgery.

However, ANYONE using a drone commercially in the UK must have the required permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority, and this requires training from ‘the best’. CUAVA is one of several academies allowed by the Civil Aviation Authority, CAA, to provide this training. We operate one of the most well-established academies for this purpose. I have 20 years’ experience flying drones, and am passionate about enabling others to fly them commercially.

 

LET’S AVOID CASUALTIES

So, with more and more drones taking to the skies, how are we to avoid casualties? Are there rules in place to keep us safe from accidents or error sufficient? In 2016, there was a 365% increase in drone crime, and this month, the media reported how a drone pilot flew his UAV treacherously close to a police helicopter on call (all captured on camera) resulting in the first UK prosecution for such a crime.

 Increased drone use quite rightly means the development and implementation of stricter laws and safety guidelines around the use of drones, with a shift from flying ‘etiquette’ to more defined dos and don’ts.

In November, the International Standards Office (ISO) published a proposed set of global standards for drone operations around the world, to keep manned aircraft and the public safe, and to improve accountability among drone pilots following a series of ‘close calls’. The standards suggested are expected to be adopted worldwide in 2019, and remain open for consultation until January 21st, 2019.

THE DRONE CODE

The CAA already has its own set of rules and regulations, and the ‘Drone Safe’ initiative. So, the new standards will not be a ‘fix all’ solution. They are not mandatory and, in some cases, they seem to fall short of other rules and regulations already implemented in other countries across the globe, such as the call for ‘no fly zones’ to be put in place around airports and densely populated public spaces: These standards are sensibly already established in most, if not all, the countries with large groups of drone hobbyists and commercial flyers.

There are, however, some key steps forward suggested in the ISO standards. These include:

Introducing training and maintenancestandards

Requirement for drone operators to log flights in more detail

Requirement that hardware and softwareused is up to date

That ‘Etiquette’ around drone use is not only suggested, but is consistent in practice

Our academy welcomes the ISO standards, but far more education is still needed. Although the CAA has its own well thought-out regulations and the ‘Drone Safe’ initiative, our recent undercover research confirms that worryingly misleading advice is still being given to purchasers of drones on the high street, with little or no mention of legal requirements or even common safety advice about operating a drone.

A disruptive technology that is readily available encourages people to use it immediately, without thinking of the consequences. Yet safety is clearly paramount when you consider the fact drones are essentially constructs of metal and plastic flying through the sky at speed. The ISO standards mark an important step in the regulation and precautionary practice of UAV usage, which comes at a critical time with high street retailers including Argos and PC World selling drones for as little as £40. If everybody can have one, then this often ‘disruptive technology’ must come with sufficient information to keep people safe. [ends]

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