Unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming more popular among businesses. But entrepreneurs better consider it carefully or risk falling foul of laws
The use cases for drones are endless, whether for personal enjoyment or commercial means, and in recent years they have become much more prevalent in professional settings.
Certain industries are thriving with the introduction of drones. For instance, agriculture and construction industries in particular are seeing the benefits. With some of the biggest projects in Europe already using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for aerial surveying, drones are starting to form a vital component in the way construction companies plan, build and improve on major projects. As the world’s population continues to increase, we will require new technology to maximise the gain from a minimum amount of input when farming. UAVs are already being used to give aerial data to determine the health and identify problem spots within a crop field.
Drones can also aid in the healthcare sector as they have the unique ability to deliver small packages of lifesaving antibiotics or vital surgical components to remote areas quickly and efficiently without risking further loss of life.
Creative industries are also benefitting hugely from the use of drones. Photographers are able to now experiment creatively with the versatility of drones. Wedding photographers across the country are describing it as an “arms race” as almost half of their potential clients now inquire about capturing aerial drone footage during ceremonies. Hollywood has also been battling for years to use drones. This gives filmmakers the chance to experiment with clever camera angles and shots that were previously not possible with a helicopter.
Naturally, as drone usage becomes more widespread, stricter regulations and laws must be put in place to protect the privacy and safety of the public.
What are the drone laws?
If you are using a drone you are governed by the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Navigation Order 2016, specifically Article 241 (endangering the safety of any person or property), Article 94 (small unmanned aircraft) and Article 95 (small unmanned surveillance aircraft).
As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that the drone operator has comprehensive training and knows how to fly the drone legally and safely as they are accountable for every flight. They must keep the drone in sight and below 400ft (120 metres) at all times and not fly them over congested area or within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building that is not under your control. Drones should never be flown near an airport or close to an aircraft to avoid collisions. In addition, to comply with data protection laws you should ensure any images obtained by the drone are collected legally.
New laws have also been implemented in the EU, providing stricter regulations on drone usage. This will grant member states of the EU the ability to define so-called no-fly zones where – through satellite geo-location – drones will not be allowed to enter. These may include airports, airfields or city centres. There will also be restrictions on the drones themselves, any drone over 25kg will always require permission to be operated and if it is under 25kg certain situations will not require permission.
How do they affect businesses?
The laws restricting where drones can be operated and how high they can fly will undoubtedly limit the potential ways businesses can harness the technology. Until technologies have been developed that enable drones to be used safely in tandem with other passenger carrying air vehicles, their use in business will remain restricted.
Why are these laws important?
Public safety should always be the foremost concern and the current laws do well to ensure this is achieved. The need for new regulations at EU level was clearly required to ensure greater security and safety, specifically in the aviation industry. This legislation is definitely a step in the right direction with the implementation of no-fly zones within airport territories. Furthermore, requiring operators of large drones to obtain a licence is important given the damage drones can cause.
While the harmonisation of licensing is sensible, we are still waiting on the standard scenarios or guidelines of the new rules and hope these will offer pragmatic guidance for both commercial and personal usage.
As with all new technological innovations, the inventors will adapt their products in line with the new legal landscapes, which may limit research and development.
Finally, the new regulations are part of a much wider regulatory landscape for drones. Users must ensure they are compliant not only with these rules but with all rules when operating drones.