Rules, Regulations and RPAS – Europe and the UK should lead

Today the House of Lords EU Committee published its report on the ‘Civilian Use of Drones in the EU’ following its inquiry over the last several months. The report encourages Europe and the UK to become global leaders in the remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) industry, saying there is the potential for the industry to create as many as 150,000 jobs by 2050.

There is broad potential for the development of civilian RPAS technology and market growth, which could further boost the UK’s high skill manufacturing base.

As the report says, across the UK there are hundreds of companies, mainly smaller businesses, already using RPAS to provide a range of services.

Size and weight flexibility means the civilian use of RPAS could be utilised for a wide range of operations now and in the future – including:

  • Agriculture – for the monitoring of crops
  • Construction – for land surveying and to inform architects and project managers of progress and for the lifting of materials
  • Conservation – to track endangered species and changes to wildlife habitats
  • Energy – for the monitoring of overhead power-lines and nuclear power station construction
  • Logistics – for the movement and delivery of parcels/packages, military equipment or emergency assistance equipment
  • Search and Rescue – to eventually replace manned services where more efficient
  • Security – through the increased use of airborne surveillance systems at events and in dangerous situations
  • Telecommunications – creating temporary communications links in emergency situations or at every day events

And the manufacturing of RPAS is not the only way in which the UK can benefit from this market.  Currently 65% of the global aircraft insurance market passes through London with a value of around $2.9bn. If the increased use of RPAS drove up the insurance market by just 1% that would equate to an extra $30m for the UK.

As the Committee highlights, RPAS have the potential to revolutionise the aviation market and we must act now in order to reap the benefits from this new technology. A careful balance in regulation needs to be achieved whereby public confidence and safety is maintained whilst not stifling industry.

With the market rapidly expanding, the EU and UK government should work with industry to take advantage of these growing opportunities.

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