The ever-growing market for commercial and recreational drones has the potential to provide dynamic growth across a whole range of sectors. The UK government is taking steps to harness the capabilities of this market by devoting its attention to creating an effective regulatory framework.

Through an amendment to the Air Navigation Order 2016, the UK government has introduced the first in a series of limitations to ensure safe drone use.1 From 30 July 2018 drone operators will be banned from flying drones within 1km of airport boundaries, and will be subject to a height limit of 400 feet in all other areas of the UK. This is a direct response to a number of incidents and near-misses recorded in 2017. Furthermore from 30 November 2019 owners of drones weighing over 250 grams will be required to register with the Civil Aviation Authority, and it is expected that further rules will be imposed to require drone operators to register drone flights through the use of flight planning apps. A Drone Bill is expected to be published this summer, which will clarify police enforcement powers where drones are being misused.

The development of a comprehensive system for licensing and monitoring drones in UK airspace is an effective means of encouraging commercial uptake. A recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers2 has forecast that there will be 76,000 drones in use across the UK by 2030, potentially adding £42 billion to the UK’s GDP. Whilst the largest impact is expected to be in the wholesale and retail sectors, it is predicted that £10.4 billion could be added to the finance, insurance, professional services and administrative services sectors alone. Insurers, particularly in underwriting offshore risks, could utilise drones to monitor risk at remote sites, or to carry out accurate assessments of damage. Recently, US insurers have made use of drone technology to record data and process claims in relation to storm damage.3

The UK government’s regulations are noteworthy in that they address smaller drones than are regulated under EU Regulation 785/2004, an issue HFW has previously highlighted.4 This is a welcome addition to the UK’s legislative framework, as the establishment of safety standards will facilitate ongoing innovation in this sector.