Drone leaders pin airspace ‘chaos’ on lack of drone laws for private pilots


Leaders in robotics have called for a tighter set of drone restrictions to stamp out the ‘chaos’ among private drone pilots.

A group of robotics specialists have launched a report, Drones in the Service of Society, identifying key areas to address in order to ensure a responsible attitude towards drone airmanship.

The report, which is a reflection on the societal issues surrounding non-commercial applications of drones operated in the service of society by private individuals, is a joint effort by members of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics (FRR) and a product of multiple workshops and meetings including the workshop on Drones in Humanitarian Contexts.

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The report provides case studies for five important areas; humanitarian aid, environmental protection, emergency services, responsible journalism and activism.

The Drones in the Service of Society report highlighted that the UK is in need of a stricter stance on privacy and data protection guidelines due to the potential impact on both drone operators and the individuals or groups whose data is being collected.

Professor Noel Sharkey, co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics and Emeritus Professor of Robotics and AI at the University of Sheffield, said: “We mustn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is now clear that the responsible use of this technology could be enormously helpful to humanitarian work and environmental protection. When we have natural disasters, starving people in conflict, or emergency need for medicines, drones can come to the rescue.”

According to BT, speaking at a news briefing in London, Professor Sharkey said: “Personally, I would say it’s in chaos. It’s somehow caught everybody by surprise – I don’t know how it did that. I was certainly complaining about it in 2007.

“I’m not a futurologist and I never look far in the future, I look at current technology. To me, it didn’t take any kind of deep thinking to realise what was going to happen with this at all.”

The report comes a week on from announcement of new UK drone laws. The new laws will restrict drones from flying above 400 feet and within 1km of airport boundaries.

Following a year-on-year increase in the report of drone incidents with aircraft – with 89 in 2017 – the measures are designed to reduce the possibility of damage to windows and engines of planes and helicopters.

The laws will come into force on 30 July and will require owners of drones weighing 250g or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and for drone pilots to take an online safety test to ensure the UK’s skies are safe from irresponsible flyers. These requirements will come into force on 30 November 2019.

Tags : dronesDrones in Serivice of SocietyFoundation for Responsible RoboticsNoel SharkeyRoboticsUAV
Emma Calder

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