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Businesses warned over new drone legislation

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Philip Banks-WelshPhilip Banks-WelshBusinesses that use drones are being warned that new legislation comes into force over the coming months.

The legislation has been drawn up in response to increased concerns over safety risks posed by drones being flown too close to controlled airspace.

Video and photography businesses were among the first to see the benefit of using drones, but a range of other sectors are adopting the technology – from the agricultural industry to architectural firms, construction contractors, and engineering companies. Delivery by drone for courier companies is also on the horizon.

Philip Banks-Welsh, a partner at law firm Royds Withy King and former RAF air traffic controller, advises some of the largest drone operators in the UK.

“These new regulations seek to impose lateral and vertical limits on the use of drones near to airports and above 400 feet which would impact on light aircraft use," said Philip.

“While such restrictions are undoubtedly necessary, they are reactive and it is considered that there will need to be regulation to deal more proactively with drone use, particularly as commercial drone use increases.

“All indications are that we are on the verge of a major increase in commercial drone usage, with increasing numbers of drone applications. There is a growing need for the introduction of sophisticated electronic controls, including geo-fencing and electronic identification of drones, to regulate and control drone use.

“The expansion of drone applications is hugely exciting but also presents significant challenges to established use of airspace in the UK. This is going to need a complete overhaul of drone legislation if we are going to avoid more instances of ‘near-misses’ with commercial flights, and if we are to create a sustainable basis on which airspace can be properly segregated for use by both unmanned aircraft and manned aircraft.

“What seemed like science fiction less than 10 years ago is now science fact and regulation needs to keep pace with the exponential increase in the use of drones, both commercially and for recreation, if our airspace is to remain safe.”

Steve Carrington from Ocuair, one of UK’s largest commercial drone operators, said: “Our business is not just about flying drones safely but the collecting and modelling of valuable data and increasing the value from the data we collect.

"There is a huge opportunity for drone technology to benefit society and improve people’s lives.”