‘Industry clampdown needed to ground illegal drone operators’

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Unqualified drone operators are plaguing the commercial drone sector by swooping in with low ball prices and butting in on business, a leading drone expert has claimed.

Sion Roberts, managing director of RUSTA, a Lincolnshire-based drone pilot training academy told Commercial Drone Professional that one of the biggest challenges facing the commercial drone sector is competition from illegal operators.

Roberts explained: “That’s the frustrating thing for an operator. A lot of people are saying it’s a race to the bottom.

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“You get a lot of illegal operators. For a job that perhaps costs £500 for a trained professional, the illegal operator would do it for £100.

“It’s like the old illegal taxi drivers you used to get in London. Get a taxi from some guy in a car, no licence, you don’t know who he is. That is the biggest problem I have seen in the industry.”

As well as taking business from trained UAV operators, the illegal operators pose larger threats to the wider commercial sector. Without being registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, operators and their flying become somewhat untraceable and there is then the challenge of ensuring correct and legal practice.

While completely untrained consumers cashing in on business is causing issues for commercial operators, Roberts added that another challenge the industry is facing is underqualified training entities.

Roberts told CDP: “I would like to see everyone be an instructor, and I know some qualified entities that are just guys who haven’t got much experience. I’m sure they’re very good guys and they know their stuff but they haven’t got those credentials to teach and there should be some minimum standard you have to achieve before you teach.

“That, to me, is the biggest frustration. The analogy I use is that we all brush our teeth but we don’t profess to be dentists. The CAA are aware that they need to put in tighter regulations; that will only be good for us and our business.”

Lincolnshire-based RUSTA has trained and issued recommendations for permission for commercial operation (PfCO) to over 500 operators and many public entities nationwide and boasts a team of instructors with either civil or commercial aviation backgrounds.

It is expected that a raft of new regulations will be introduced over the course of 2018.

Tags : CAACivil Aviation AuthorityDrone operatorsdronesillegal drone operatorsPfCOqualifiedRustaSion RobertsUAV
Emma Calder

The author Emma Calder

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