October 21, 2019
The Committee says that the Report highlights the need for a vision for the future for drones in the UK, drawing on the opportunities and lessening risks presented by increased drone use.
During the inquiry, the Committee heard that the use of drones has many societal and economic benefits, and are currently being used in a number of different industries. It also heard of the substantial risks to both safety and privacy that drones may pose as they are incorporated into our airspace.
Mixed reports about the risk of a drone colliding with an aircraft were given, and the Committee says it is concerned to find that the Government had not conducted a substantial and accurate risk assessment of the impact of a drone colliding with an aircraft.
The Committee also heard of a proposed registration scheme, which was generally welcomed, and an online test for all drone users set to start in November of this year. The test is to ensure all drone users are properly equipped to pilot a drone and to make it easier to identify drones that may be used for illegal or criminal purposes.
However, the Committee says that users queried the proposed fee assigned to the new registration system, as well as the appropriateness of the online test. The Committee believes that the registration system must be fit for purpose, and that its design should not stop users from registering. The Committee also believes that the Government should not introduce any legislation that will unfairly impact upon the recreational drone and model flying community.
The Committee calls on the Government to produce a comprehensive White Paper by Summer 2020 that sets out its plans to integrate drones into society. This should include:
- maximising the opportunities;
- mitigating the risks;
- the role of drone safety education;
- regulations and registration; and
- the necessary technological advancements required for such innovations.
The Government should also clarify penalties relating to improper drone use in the forthcoming Drones Bill. The Committee recommended that the Government includes explicit penalties for the following in the legislation:
- the weaponisation of drones;
- disabling in-built safety features; and
- failure to register.
The Committee says that the Government must also commit to research and innovation into the technological advances of drones and ensure that the airspace is fit for the integration of drones. This includes:
- the creation of a system where all drones are traceable (electronic conspicuity);
- funding and creating “test beds” to trial unmanned airspace management; and
- support universities and stakeholder innovations that are leading in drone research.
To read the Committee’s announcement in full and for a link to the Report, click here.