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The University of Birmingham recently released a report outlining that the use of drones within the UK is expected to rise significantly over the next 20 years. After a number of recent ‘drone-related’ news articles, what the future is for the use of drones, in a domestic context…

What is a drone?

A drone is what is known as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and most people will have heard about their military use over the past few years. More recently, smaller and more accessible versions have been used domestically, with a wide range of uses and benefits being considered and developed. Various types of drones are available to buy right now over the internet, with prices ranging from around £100 to over £2,000.

What can they be used for?

The global market for the use of drones is expected to exceed £100 billion in the near future and there are presently a wide range of uses including:

  • companies like Google and Amazon using drones to deliver packages to consumers on the day of purchase;
  • use by enforcement agencies such as the police for surveillance and crime detection purposes;
  • use of drones to deliver aid to isolated and remote areas as part of future disaster relief support;
  • use as part of developing conservation techniques, involving the tracking of movement of wild animals with significantly reduced human intervention and interaction;
  • ‘live’ traffic monitoring and instantaneous assessment of the transport networks; and
  • helping speed up the delivery of medical aid, for example, transporting donor organs from one location to another much more quickly.

With just a snapshot of what drones may be able to assist with in the future, supporters of drone technology say these huge and noble developments far outweigh any negatives. But how do you regulate and control their use? And will the skies above our cities be buzzing with hundreds of drones carrying out their respective tasks?

Disadvantages

The University of Birmingham report outlined that the increased use of drones raises ‘significant safety, security and privacy concerns’ and many are calling for urgent measures to safeguard UK airspace. Who is in control of the drone? How will they be regulated?

In mid-October 2014, violence erupted at a football match between Serbia and Albania when a drone was flown into the stadium with a pro-Albanian flag hanging from it. A week or so later, a man was arrested for flying a drone into Manchester City’s Etihad stadium during a Premier League match with the police making the point that it may have caused a threat to crowd safety by causing alarm to those inside unaware of the potential threat of this flying object coming towards them.

There have been various other incidents including reports of a drone being flown ‘deliberately close’ to a passenger plane as it came in to land at Southend airport earlier in 2014 and information suggesting that criminals had attached infra-red cameras to a supermarket-bought drone and flown it over nearby houses in an attempt to track down cannabis farms by way of heat signatures to raid the properties.

So are drones a positive or negative?

It is really too early to tell which way the future development of drones will go but there are clearly some logical and very real concerns to justify limiting their use within the UK over the coming years. Conversely, there is clearly a will and innovation to maximise the use of drones for various benefits and any future regulation and legislation will have to strike an appropriate balance. There are some fascinating and exciting aspects to drone use and no doubt, over the coming months and years, this will provoke heated debate from both sides of the spectrum. Are we looking at a future with our skies full of buzzing drones? Only time will tell.

This post was edited by Ruth Armstrong. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.


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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.