Liftoff: have your say in developing UK standards for drones

Take the opportunity to add your voice to the debate: follow the link to this BSI drone industry standards survey now: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/HSDSVW/

Don’t miss your chance: the survey is open to the end of October and results to be advised end of year

…Philip Hicks, founder and director of Pravo Consulting, strategic communication and research consultancy focused on drones and disruptive technologies, examines the nascent status of standards for the dynamic remotely piloted aircraft systems sector:

Working with UK national standards body and business improvement company BSI, the team at ARPAS-UK is canvassing opinion across stakeholder groups to gain an understanding of drone industry attitudes and tie together the myriad of industries and applications.

The survey that is open for all to take part in runs through to 28th October 2020.

This is both an exciting and challenging time for the drone industry and together we can chart a course for safe and responsible development.

As those of us involved in the sector understand, drones are not just the future enablers of a whole new spectrum of services but are here right now. In essence, the development of standards not only supports today’s urgent medical deliveries but potentially points the way to tomorrow’s passenger transit and a new world of autonomous transport.

What’s more, COVID-19, and the resulting reassessment of how we live and do business has not just rushed in a ‘new normal’ but acted as a catalyst for disruptive technologies including RPAS technologies (or however you describe UAVs, UAS or drones).

Researching the state of standards

As Graham Brown explains: “From medical deliveries and agriculture to surveys and construction plus a host of applications drones are making a difference to our lives in real and demonstrable ways.”

He introduced the survey as the start of a process of engagement at the kick-off international webinar hosted by the BSI team. “The project is researching the state of standards and standard-like activity in the UK that relate to the use of drones”.

The main thrust of the survey is to drill down to the optimal weighting of regulations and standards (including aviation, enabling and industry standards) across a range of core drone areas of interest.

Capture views of influencers

The grouping of questions range from airworthiness and airspace integration to public acceptance and insurance, to name just a few.

Interestingly, standards depending upon context and application will be of varying importance to different stakeholders from manufacturers to operators. That’s the point, to capture the views of a disparate number of influencers that make up the drone ecosystem, and to help develop relevant and appropriate methodologies going forwards.

Forecasts vary, as ever, but the predicted figures for growth are undeniably impressive. The drone services market size is expected to grow from $4.4 billion in 2018 to $63.6 billion by 2025 (source: Business Insider). The widely differing forecasts beg investigation and may be the subject of my next blog.

Pressing need for co-ordination and to find a common terminology

So, irrespective of the source of market stats, the future is dynamic and promising. But there are some important brakes and barriers to adoption, not least public trust and confidence and integration with manned airspace. The answer may, in large measure, be the creation of guidance, rules, best practice and frameworks where the industry and operators, amongst a spectrum of stakeholders can navigate their way with confidence to continued adoption.

There are many global organisations developing exhaustive lists of aviation-based drone regulations and standards and there is a real and pressing need to co-ordinate these important activities and moreover “find a common terminology”, as Graham Brown underlined. Current research underway includes AW-Drones, the EU Horizon funded programme, with 600-plus standards recommended, suggested or in progress, plus EUSCG stemming from EASA and US-centred ANSI, establishing a roadmap for implementation, navigating the structures of FAA regulations.

Your industry needs you. Take the survey and have your say!