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  • Writer's pictureHannah Kapff

Drones: Practical Heroes or Perilous Pests?

“A disruptive technology that is readily available encourages people to use it immediately, without thinking of the consequences.” – Alan Perrin, UAV Expert and Instructor at CUAVA.

With over 1.5 million drones expected to be 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.

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.

However, ANYONE using a drone commercially must have the required permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority, and this requires training from ‘the best’. Curious PR is proud to support one of the most well-established training academies for this purpose, CUAVA, which is headed up by Alan Perrin who has 20 years’ experience flying these gravity-defying devices.

Yet, many drone purchasers are unaware of what is, or isn’t, allowed. Our team went undercover shopping on the high street to find out what advice we’d be given when posing as a buyer. We were genuinely shocked at the inaccuracy and paucity of advice we were given, even from the major retailers, which you’d think would know better.

It all seems to come down to TRAINING. 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. This month, the International Standards Office (ISO) published a 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 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 maintenance standards, the requirement for drone operators to log flights in more detail, the requirement that hardware and software used is up to date, and that ‘Etiquette’ around drone use is not only suggested, but is consistent in practice.

Alan Perrin has spoken openly on this topic this week and feels the ISO standards are “Simply not enough”. In his words:

“We welcome 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.”

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.

CUAVA runs two days 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. CUAVA has a 100% pass rate for all those who apply for all stages of the training process.

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