In recent years, the emergence of drone technology has transformed a number of industries and many more are lining up to reap the benefits. But the growth of commercial drone use could be heading for a ‘glass ceiling’, as social policy and regulation have been slow to keep up.
Soon an official drone inquiry by MPs on the transport committee will scrutinise the industry to an unprecedented level, in an attempt to establish decisively how and where drones can be used better for business purposes in Britain.
The use of drones for commercial applications is still largely in its infancy – the first ones appearing as recently as 2013. But in that short time, they have revolutionised all manner of sectors, from cinema to agriculture. The possibilities now emerging across the spectrum were unimaginable not that long ago, so it’s no wonder the public imagination hasn’t kept pace.
It doesn’t help that the dangers are being well-publicised but poorly-researched. Increases in mid-air near misses with commercial planes have risen along with increases in drone ownership, and there were more near misses between drones and aircraft reported in the first half of 2016 than the whole of 2015. While experts stress the need to keep things in perspective, since they still don’t know how much damage contact with a flight might cause, that’s going to be little comfort to passengers.
With such uncertainty, it’s little wonder that more and more commercial drone pilots are investing in Public Liability drone insurance – as it offers protection in case their drone causes accidentally damager or injures property or people – as well as any legal costs involved.
With MPs suggesting they might be handing out steep punishments for accidents, the right cover is more important than ever.
Another key issue that MPs will discuss in the drone inquiry are national security risks, particularly in the light of recent events in Westminster. The questions are being taken seriously, and not a moment too soon. The drone inquiry itself is a pivotal moment for the industry as the future of our skies is drawn up.
Part of this national security worry is the proximity threat of drones ending up in places they shouldn’t be. That’s why Insure4Drones offer Trespasser protection as an optional extra, just in case your drone comes down unexpectedly and you need to retrieve it.
But the risks are only half the story. MPs will be weighing the financial opportunities on offer too. Last year the commercial drone business was estimated to be worth something in the region of £88bn, according to a report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
They predict the biggest growth areas to be infrastructure, agriculture and transport, as companies like Amazon exploit same-day deliveries, and shipping giants Maersk expand their existing drone use from tanker inspection to last-mile delivery off-shore. In conceiving how regulation should be applied – including how drone insurance works – MPs will have a keen eye on ensuring that the UK enjoys the largest slice of that figure possible.
So, as the future of the industry hangs in the balance, should drone operators be worried?
We won’t know exactly until drone inquiry publishes its report, but it’s safe to say that if you’re already in the business then the opportunities can only get better. Technology is evolving at pace and applications will have to keep up to remain competitive. It’s in everyone’s interests to find the right balance between safety and innovation, not just commercial drone operators, and when that balance is agreed there are undoubtedly huge profits on offer, especially for anyone already established in the industry.
And there’s one thing every single drone needs to stay safe and do its job, no matter what that job is – the right kind of insurance. Therefore, if MPs do decide more safety protection is needed along with the CAA – you’ll already be covered against the potential risks or problems.
And if you’re not covered, there’s never been a better – or more crucial – time to be insured. Get great value commercial drone insurance from Insure4Drones today and see how affordable peace of mind can be for your business.