UAV industry leaders are looking to stamp out the public’s fears about the use of commercial drones as the UK’s airspace is filling up with more and more enterprise operators.
Nesta’s Flying High Challenge, a programme designed to safely develop commercial drone use cases in five cities and regions, is examining public sentiment in a bid to progress the development of UAVs in the UK.
A spokesperson for the Flying High Challenge said: “The drone industry has expanded rapidly in recent years, with currently over 4,000 commercial drone operators in the UK alone, and growing adoption in construction, infrastructure inspection and agriculture.
“However, studies have found awareness of drones and drone applications among the general public to be low, with most participants in the DfT study having low or no awareness of the civic and commercial uses of the technology, and a generally negative association with military and hobbyist use of drones.
“The Vision Critical survey similarly reported awareness of all drone applications to be low compared with awareness of uses of manned aviation. This doesn’t appear to have changed much since, as Nesta’s more recent poll from December 2017 found that only around 30% of respondents felt that they had a good understanding of drones and their uses.”
During its report, Nesta identified that the public is heavily swayed by the operator. The Department for Transport study found that use by the state, in particular the emergency services, is the most well-received, followed by use by commercial operators, while the use of drones by the general public tends to generate concern.
The findings are corroborated by Nesta’s own poll, the Vision Critical poll and the RAS survey, with 91% of respondents supporting the use of drones for emergency response and 83% supporting police intelligence. That is compared to 81% in favour of infrastructure inspection and 78% for agricultural uses, and only 37% supportive of drones being used for leisure activities.