As a result of the government’s recent consultaion into Unlocking the UK’s High Tech Economy: Consultation on the Safe Use of Drones in the UK there are proposals to increase user accountability with all users of drones of 250g and above to be register and mandatory competence testing will be extended to include all leisure users. The published response to the consultation, which can be downloaded here, states that the Government plans to continue to work with the CAA to support commercial users of drones grow their businesses. This will include updating the Air Navigation Order 2016 to support market needs and the incoming European Drone Regulations (which are believed to be at the consultation stage). They are also seeking to bring forward work to create an authoritative source of UK airspace data, which will facilitate the implementation of geo-fencing of sensitive and restricted buildings and facilties.
Drones are being seen as an increasingly cost effective tool for recovering data from difficult to reach sites or for monitoring changes in conditions. Examples of use in our industry include:
- rock faces and slopes;
- coastal erosion monitoring;
- stockpile managment;
- monitoring for methane emissions from landfills;
- indentifying underground fires.
Not surprisingly regulators are seeing the benefits offered by drones and both SEPA and EA have been in the news over the past year or so for trialling drones to help with the detection of waste crimes. At the recent EG50 conference in Portsmouth, this growing interest was reflected in the numbers surrounding the Land Minerals Consulting Ltd’s DroneSurv stand, and the numbers of attendees enjoying a virtual field trip to Iceland, using the University of Portsmouth’s 3D virtual reality kit, based of course, on drone gathered data . Whilst jumping up and down on the surface of Iceland may seem a gimmick, the value of using these virtual environments enables familairisation in advance of field trips, allowing time to be more effectively used when on site. It is easy to see an ever expanding scope of uses and applications changing the way we work in the future. With a global drones application market estimated to be $127.3bn by PwC in 2025 (click here for their report) and the thirteeen near missess at London Airports last year the need for the Government to be addressing these potentially conflicting issues now is well demonstrated.
Whilst there is increasing evidence of drone use within the industry there is currently an absence of practical technical guidance and to this end CIRIA have two project proposals to address this. With PwC indicating that the best prospects for drone applications is infrastructure ( with an estimated global value in 2025 of $45.2bn) CIRIA is seeking industry involvement and funding for their project proposal “The use of unmanned aerial vehicles for infrastructure asset management (P3069)” to begin to fill this guidance gap. Use of drones is expected also to form part of their project proposal “Effective innovative remediation approaches for contaminated land – case studies and good practice (P3077)” For more information please contact CIRIA directly.