Action urged to ensure drone sector can flourish as industry takes flight


More needs to be done to reassure the public about the merits of commercial drone use, according to a new study.

Most people (51%) are against the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for logistics, the survey of 2,043 British adults for the Royal Aeronautical Society found.

Some 40% of people believe the technology poses more risks than opportunities for the UK, with just 33% disagreeing with that statement.

Amazon and Google are among the firms which are developing drone delivery services.

Almost three in four people (74%) are concerned about the safety risks of drones, while privacy is an issue for 75%.

The research also found more than three quarters of Britons (76%) back tighter enforcement of UAV flying regulations, despite fewer than one in five (18%) agreeing that they have a good understanding of what those rules are.

There have been dozens of reported near-misses between drones and passenger jets close to UK airports in recent months.

In April, a drone was believed to have hit a British Airways flight landing at Heathrow, although it later emerged it may have been a plastic bag.

Tony Henley, chairman of the Royal Aeronautical Society's unmanned aircraft systems group, said sales of small drones have "skyrocketed" and the UK is well placed to capture economic gains from the growing industry.

But he accepted the growing popularity of drones has led to "understandable caution" from some people.

"With more frequent reports of incidents involving the unsafe or anti-social use of drones by irresponsible operators, public perceptions of the sector could take a nose-dive," he said.

Mr Henley called on the Government, regulators, police and industry to help the sector "flourish in a safe and responsible way" by raising awareness of drone rules to reduce "careless misuse".

Drone operators must keep their craft away from aircraft and airfields, and not fly above 400ft.

They are also barred from flying drones with cameras within 50 metres of people, vehicles or buildings, or over congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events.

In the Queen's Speech it was announced that the Government will introduce new regulations on drones in a Modern Transport Bill.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Through the Modern Transport Bill we will explore ways to increase growth and innovation in drones in order to harness their potential.

"There will need to be clear regulations in place and following a consultation on proposals this summer, the Government will look at what new legislation might be needed."