Public backs drone use if better regulated, report claims

22 January 2020, 00:04

A flying drone
(Joe Giddens/PA). Picture: PA

New research from Vodafone suggests more stringent rules around drone use would see the majority of Britons back their use more widely.

The majority of people in the UK would support the widespread use of drones if stringent safety, security and monitoring measures existed, a new report has suggested.

The cellular connected drones report, commissioned by Vodafone, indicates 80% of people would support greater adoption of drones as part of emergency response and assistance as well as conservation and other tasks.

According to the research, 86% of those asked support the idea of using drones to support emergency response, 79% with the idea of drones being used to assist the police and 61% to help with monitoring as part of environmental conservation.

Current drone regulation has been criticised for failing to keep control of the vast number of new, privately-owned devices which have appeared in the last ten years as the technology and gadgets came into fashion.

Current drone rules stipulate that the craft must be kept no further than 500 metres from view, not within 50 metres of people or structures and not within 150 metres of large gatherings.

However, a number of high-profile incidents in recent years, most notably at Gatwick Airport in 2018, have shown tighter regulation is still required.

New rules were introduced in late 2019 which require users to now obtain an operator ID before their gadget is flown outdoors.

People who fly drones are also required to get a separate flyer ID by passing a theory test.

Vodafone’s research also makes several recommendations for drone policy, including the creation of a “blue light” fund for drones in the emergency services.

It also suggests creating a traffic management system to help co-ordinate drone flights with other airspace use – this could be based on a system Vodafone is involved in developing which uses SIM cards to connect and operate drones rather than hand-held radio transmitters.

The firm argues this enables better registering and tracking of drones over a greater distance.

Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery said: “Drones can provide crucial information to emergency services responding to incidents.

“They can assess fires, deliver medical supplies and help businesses survey hazardous conditions such as construction sites, power lines and our own mobile masts quicker and more safely.

“On the flip side, rogue drones can pose security risks. By working in collaboration with government, the public sector and regulators, we can shape legislation to ensure the transition from a consumer toy to a vital support service while protecting our critical infrastructure.”

By Press Association

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