Around 30 years ago people were obsessed with the future – what it would bring, how we would live, what would be different etc. Shows like Tomorrow’s World were popular because they demonstrated all the great things we had to look forward to, no matter how futuristically outlandish they may have seemed. 30 odd years later and a lot of the predictions have come true, which has made most of us stop talking about what will be done in the future, and start talking about what is being done now.
Drones are one of those things that not too long ago seemed like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, but now they’re everywhere. Personal drone use has skyrocketed (pun definitely intended) and drones are no longer a weird sight in city parks and other public spaces. But it’s precisely this popularity that may spell trouble for drone-lovers everywhere.
Drones (or UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles) were first developed for military use, but soon the commercial applications started becoming obvious – everything from aerial photography to making short-haul deliveries.
In the early days there were very few regulations for using a drone, meaning it was pretty much a free for all. But aviation authorities soon cottoned on to the potential dangers surrounding drones and a few rules were put in place.
Nowadays, UAVs are classed by the Civil Aviation Authority as a type of aircraft, which makes them subject to a few pretty strict laws. For the commercial use of larger drones, permission must be sought from the CAA itself, while personal UAVs under 20kg only have a few restrictions placed on them – namely, don’t fly within 50m of a person or 150m of a congested area, and don’t fly above 400ft. Oh, and don’t spy on people.
This relative lack of regulation has led to a growth in drone popularity among hobbyists, which is why the park near you is probably full of them now. But because of the damage a falling drone can do, insurance has become a serious consideration. Some of the rules for this, however, are still pretty up in the air (another deliberate pun – sorry).
As it stands, drone incidents may be covered by some personal insurance policies, but this is entirely up to the insurer; many insurers won’t pay out because of the drone’s status as an aircraft, while others will be less strict on this as long as the drone is not being used for commercial reasons.
Things are set to change though: a law of compulsory insurance for all drones (even small ones) may be just around the corner. The House of Lords are currently in the process of debating a policy that would mean every drone would have to be registered in order for it to be legal to use. With legislation like this on the table, drones are likely to go the way of the motorcar in the early days: insurance was not originally compulsory for cars because of how few of them were being used on the roads, but when car use became more widespread, the obvious dangers they posed led parliament to pass the 1930 Road Traffic Act, making it a legal requirement for all drivers to be insured.
As a vehicle that can cause a significant amount of damage, UAVs will probably soon be subject to the same type of legislation, meaning that the honeymoon period of drone use will be over. Watch this space.