Traditionally unmanned aircraft have only been used by model aircraft enthusiasts for recreational purposes. However, they are increasingly being used for professional applications such as surveillance and data-gathering. Such aircraft are likely to be operated in a way that may pose a greater risk to the general public.
Unlike manned aircraft or model aircraft used for recreational purposes, there are no established operating guidelines so operators may not be aware of the potential dangers or indeed the responsibility they have towards not endangering the public.
Furthermore, much larger unmanned aircraft are now being developed. These aircraft are required by international aviation laws and regulations to be designed and manufactured to an approved standard, and very often require a great deal more space in which to operate. Therefore it is often necessary to take additional steps to ensure that the aircraft can be safely integrated with other airspace users – both in the air and on the ground.
For example in the UK, in January 2010 the CAA introduced new regulations that require operators of small unmanned aircraft used for aerial purposes and those equipped for data acquisition and/or surveillance to obtain permission from the CAA before commencing a flight within a congested area or in proximity to people or property. Similar regulations are being introduced in other countries and regions to protect their airspace and civil liberties.
The evolution of drones brings new risks and questions we need to answer: How do we make sure it all works properly? What additional measures should be in place to ensure the safety, privacy and security of individuals in the vicinity of active drones?