Experts from Liverpool John Moores University are guiding UK government policy on the use of drones.
Commercial and recreational use of drones offers a huge economic opportunity for the UK, valued at £42bn by 2030. But drones also need to be regulated as we saw last Christmas when a drone shutdown Gatwick airport for 30 hours.
With a new ‘Drones Bill’ passing through Parliament, LJMU experts have been giving evidence on the ethics and safety for the nearly 5,000 commercial organisations now using drones.
LJMU was one of the first UK universities to earn Civil Aviation Authority permission to fly drones to support its research and teaching activities and already has 8 members of staff fully qualified to fly with almost 40 more undertaking drone research.
In addition, the university runs 3 MSc courses specifically focused on drone technology (see below), training up to 50 students a year in the use of drones for engineering, wildlife conservation and environmental monitoring.
Evidence to MPs
In its evidence to the committee, experts from the Faculty of Engineering and Technology and were critical of regulation for no-drone flyzones around airports: “There is clearly a major issue of misuse, either by members of the public simply unaware of legislation or by criminals acting deliberately,” they said. But warned that regulation needs to be well communicated and understood.
“It will risk having a negligible effect if it does not address those unaware of regulation or those deliberately ignoring it.”
Moreover they say, overly restricting the use of drones could actually hinder public safety, for instance, the work of structural engineers who use drones in preference to placing workers at risk with the use of ladders, scaffolding and rope access.
And they also said ‘downing’ rogue drones by jamming radio signals was hugely problematic and could endanger aircraft control systems.
They also advised aligning with international regulations: “It is essential that, irrespective of Brexit, the UK aligns with the European Aviation Safety Agency as it bids to place a significant burden on drone manufacturers to ensure that their systems cannot be misused.”
Public awareness and education of drone dos and don’ts is extremely poor, they say, adding: “Higher education institutions in the UK have an excellent record of delivering successful teaching and research programmes on drones.”
Dean of Faculty Mike Riley said: “The use of drone technology is growing in almost every sector of the economy and LJMU is established at the forefront of expertise in this area, influencing decision making at the very highest level.”
LJMU courses on drone technology:
Masters in Wildlife Conservation and Drone Applications
Masters in Drone Technology and Applications
Masters in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Design