Last Christmas drones were the must have gift for many. This Christmas their popularity will surely continue. This, along with Amazon getting permission to test its drone delivery system in the UK earlier this year means the technology is here for life and not just for Christmas. But with increasing reports of near collisions with aircraft, lingering privacy concerns and the difficulty in identifying operators who do break the rules the problems are clear to see.
In a speech to the Airport Operators Association annual conference the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, struck a cautionary note about the technology:
“I think perhaps I have got a little less enthusiasm for a completely liberal market on unmanned aircraft and drones around the country than one or two of my predecessors.
“They have an important role to play in our future, for example, assessing infrastructure and monitoring our coast. I think we have got to be much more careful before we start to see unfettered use of unmanned vehicles across our society.”
The first step towards producing a government strategy on drones has already happened.
In April 2016 Robert Goodwill MP, then Minister of State for Transport, told a House of Lords committee that a public dialogue about the use of drones had taken place. He went on to state that the findings of the process would be published in “May 2016” and would be followed by a “government consultation and strategy” later this year.
So far nothing has been published and as a result it seems increasingly unlikely that the consultation will take place before the end of 2016.
The Government must act now to resolve this situation.
Drones clearly have some interesting and innovative uses, but they also bring with them a number of very real problems. For this reason they have to be used responsibly. With complaints to the police about drones rising 2000% between 2013 and 2015 it’s painfully apparent that the current regulations cannot guarantee that this will happen.
A sensible first step to help limit irresponsible drone use would be a workable system of registration. This would ensure that those people who do misuse drones can be identified and properly punished. The threat of real sanctions would also drive recreational users to make sure they understand the rules and their responsibilities. For this to happen the Government has to take the lead and it must do so sooner rather than later. It must follow through on its work, move forward with publishing its strategy and consult on it.