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Regulatory Horizons Council: the regulation of drones

The Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) is an independent expert committee that identifies the implications of technological innovation, and provides government with impartial, expert advice on the regulatory reform required to support its rapid and safe introduction.

This report makes recommendations on how the UK can unlock the benefits of drones and support wider commercial deployment through regulation.

Drones promise to transform, and to disrupt, numerous industries, including medical supplies, consumer deliveries, infrastructure inspection, agricultural surveying, and environmental monitoring. Like most new technologies, they also bring risks, and for drones this includes risks of accidents, collisions, intrusion, noise, terrorism, and crime.

The RHC suggests that the Government should recognise when assessing the risks of drones that there are also potential benefits missed in not developing drones. For example, the use of helicopters to inspect power lines and offshore oil and gas sites and the risks associated with this though relatively low can be reduced by deploying drones. By easing the path to drone deployment, regulators may be decreasing rather than increasing risks to human life.

The report also suggests five future possible scenarios for the future of drones, ranging from ‘Luddite’ to ‘Libertarian’. These highlighted the importance of regulation, standards, geographical differentiation, accountability of operators, public engagement, security, and prioritisation of use cases, says the report.

The full report can be found here.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy November 2021

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