Whether you call them Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Flying Mini Robots, you may have noticed that drones have been flying high of late. They go where many cannot reach or where manned flight is inefficient and risky, and they’re proving to be very powerful business tools, not to mention invaluable assets to the public sector.
If we look beyond the insect-like toys buzzing around in parks, the drone industry is evolving at an exponential rate. From revealing unknown monuments in the desert near Petra to herding elephants in Tanzania, the sheer breadth of their potential is astonishing.
To name just a few industries and the tasks a drone could perform: military investigation, fire assessment, police work, cinematography, hurricane research, search and rescue, agriculture, education, construction, and insurance.
The pandemic has also caused the public sector to make more of the technology. At the end of last year, the Government announced a fund of £33m for ground-breaking aviation projects, and that drones fighting fires and delivering COVID-19 supplies would be among the first to feel the benefit.
20 proposals have been backed, with many more to follow, as the UK Government steps up its efforts in harnessing technology to tackle some of the major global challenges.
Projects include APIAN Limited, who is developing a drone to deliver COVID-19 blood and swab tests between NHS hospitals and labs. Windracers Distributed Avionics, who specialise in ‘swarming technology’, which allows multiple drones to work in unison and provide humanitarian aid or fight fires. And Dock-to-Dock, a goods distribution company, that uses hydrogen powered aircrafts to deliver supplies between Bristol and Cardiff.
However, while commercial drones are saving the day, recreational bots are causing a bit of a nuisance. In the past five months alone, our Police has reported 336 drone-related crimes. The Home Office, Police and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have now joined forces in a bid to ground those pilots breaking the law.
Operation Foreverwing will both raise awareness of the rules on the CAA website and clamp down on those breaking them. According to CAA, there are now 200,000 registered drones in the sky, and this joint initiative is there to make sure everyone shares our airspace safely.
Putting a strong emphasis on health and safety, then, will be essential. Drone pilots may have to undergo training and ensure that they are aware of the current laws in their area.
Restricted airspaces and the maintenance of drones for airworthiness will also be important factors.
And with so many sectors looking to enter the world of drones, insurance policies will have to cover a wide range of risks. These will include cyber-attack, loss of data, theft, public liability, multi-pilot flying and higher risk flight paths. It’s likely that new risks will keep emerging, and that lessons will be learnt.
If we can manage the risks and keep on top of this high-flying technology, the sky really is the limit for what drones can help us achieve.
Published date: 14th April 2021
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