Q&A: Businessman behind Cambridgeshire’s latest UAV firm weighs in on industry’s safety concerns

Ely Aviation

On Monday, Ely Aviation the company received its Permission for Commercial Operations from the CAA and officially opened its doors for business yesterday. Commercial Drone Professional spoke to Ian Titchener, manager of Cambridgeshire-based Ely Aviation, on its first day of business.

In your mind, what are the biggest safety issues facing the commercial drone sector?

The biggest threat to the drone industry as a whole has to be the sheer number of people flying drones with absolutely no idea of the legislation involved in doing so.

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For example, I came across a member of staff at my local Currys PC World who was trying to demonstrate a Phantom 3 Standard to a father and son in the car park of the retail park. Had I not pointed out how unsafe and totally illegal it was, he would have launched the drone in a built-up area, and close to groups people who were out for their weekend shopping fix.

If the people selling drones are not aware of (at least) the drone code, what hope do we have for the people who are actually flying them.

What do you think the industry should be doing to prevent this kind of practice?

I think it’s more an issue for the government and the CAA to sort out. The huge problem is lack of awareness. The Dronesafe website is great, but nobody knows it’s there!

But as for the industry itself, I think we should not be afraid to call out the people who are both operating illegally and flying in such a manner that could cause serious injury or damage.

In an ideal world, what regulations would you like to see put in place?

I think what the government are proposing is a good start, but my own personal opinion is that people should not be able to buy a drone unless they have a certificate of basic competency. Very similar to the CBT that motorcyclists have to carry out before they can ride on the road.

If kids want to fly, they should be accompanied by an adult who holds the certification. I don’t want to see the point of entry raised too high, but it has to be tightened up.

What sectors within the commercial industry do you think face the biggest issues with safety?

I think the commercial operators face the biggest issues as a whole. I heard recently that there are more people operating commercially who are unqualified than those who hold PfCO status.

This not only gives the industry a bad name but also endangers their clients and also the careers of those who have spent thousands on getting qualified.

I think initiatives like the Drone Safe Register are great. It gives people a forum through which they can find properly qualified and insured professionals.

There is a perception that the commercial operators will not be prosecuted. Just look at YouTube, I have to say that I don’t think the perception is wrong. The authorities need to be seen to be cracking down on illegal operators, and those who are breaking the law.

What does the industry stand to lose if these safety issues are not addressed?

All of the potential that it has to do good.

Tags : Commercial droneDrone safetyEly AviationIan Titchenerpilot safetyQ&AsafetyUAVUAV pilot
Emma Calder

The author Emma Calder


  1. Personally don’t see the post of the interview with a newbe about the ‘state of the industry’? Sorry, but what is his experience? The problem with the industry apart from over saturation, is that the distinction between commercial and non-commercial operators is not different enough. The regulations are essentially ridiculous and have little to with safety and more to do with surveillance. 50m separation makes the main use of Drone Surveying in the uk a non starter. Add to that the unenforceability of the current legislation this is the reason many operators have not renewed PfCO or applied for in the first instance. Professional qualified and experienced operators should have all restrictions removed, period.

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