Government urged to reform transport regulation to encourage commercial drone space

The Drone Delivery Group has submitted a white paper to the government urging changes in established air, sea and land transport regulations that could stifle the burgeoning drone sector in the UK.

The Drone Delivery group – a collective of 400 ‘drone industry experts’ – has submitted a white paper to the government which urges some joined up thinking regarding transportation laws that might effect commercial drones in the future, calling for ‘a harmonised and coordinated approach to standards and regulations, across land, sea and air.’

The general intention of the white paper – titled ‘A National Strategy for Drones Across Land, Sea and Air’ –  seems to be around changing the UK’s approach to regulation in order that the economic benefits of commercial drones can be fully unlocked in the future, and innovation in the space isn’t just something that happens overseas. A recent PWC report claimed the drone scene will be worth £45 billion to the UK economy by 2030.

The spearhead of the argument is that while in the past it has made sense to regulate the three ‘operating domains’ of land, sea and air separately, drones in some sense cut through all three, and regulation that doesn’t take that into account could end up tying one hand behind the sector’s back.

“For hundreds of years, it has been widely accepted that traditional forms of transport would not dramatically evolve past their original purpose, with aircraft flying in the sky, ships sailing on seas and cars driving on roads,” said Robert Garbett, Chairman of the Senior Advisory Board of the Drone Delivery Group. “With the exciting potential of the drone industry, this is now no longer the case.  Drones have created a paradigm shift which requires an evolution in the way the UK regulates in this area to avoid stifling an opportunity for UK Plc which could force the majority of drone business overseas.

“We are calling on the UK Government to lay the foundations for our industry to flourish, and in so doing, lead the world in this remarkable technology. Today, we have set out a strategy, to develop a harmonised and coordinated approach to standards and regulations, across land, sea and air, in order to realise the benefit for generations to come.”

In general this seems like a nudge to the government to not let existing or perhaps even outdated regulation suffocate innovation in a burgeoning sector. Since legislation and government regulation is often left looking like playing catch up with the trajectory of technology and the impacts new inventions have on society, they may well have a point.  You can read the full white paper here.

Meanwhile on January 31st a Westminster Business Forum policy conference called ‘Next steps for drone regulation and use in the UK’ will take place. Chaired by Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, Vice President of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation, the session includes presentations by various aviation industry big wigs, and will ‘discuss the priorities for the safe and effective integration of unmanned and remotely piloted aircraft systems into UK airspace, and what is needed from regulators and users to enable routine operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).’

So it looks like some of the movers and shakers in parliamentary circles aren’t oblivious to the argument.


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