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Drone Technology

20 Dec 11:00 by Adam Smith

drone flying over grass

Travelling at Christmas, no matter where you are, can be a stressful experience in itself. Travel in the UK has been disrupted due to drones flying over the runway at London Gatwick airport. It’s no surprise that runways were closed, flights cancelled and landing flights diverted due to this! The police were unable to shoot down the drones due to a fear that stray bullets could cause further problems for aircraft. The perimeters of the airport have been searched for the operators but no one has been found responsible yet, with the intent of the drones believed to be deliberately interfering. However, regardless of the intent, the Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg has stated "This is a crime. This drone is being flown illegally". The flyers that have disrupted travel at Gatwick airport are likely to be reprimanded severely and could face up to 5 years in prison.

The interference in London is likely to make people question whether drones are a good gift to buy, especially as many are likely to be gifted over the festive period. They can be a fantastic present if used responsibly. Although initially there were no hard rules connected to them, the popularity of drones has now forced the UK government and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to enforce laws on how they can be operated. At the moment, the main restrictions for drones are that they can’t be flown above 400 feet or within 1km of airport boundaries (Gov.uk). The government has also confirmed that after 30th November 2019 all drone pilots who have a machine that weighs over 250g will need to register it with the CAA, as well as taking an online safety test (Gov.uk).

It is unfortunate that this fantastic technology is receiving such bad press at the moment, as when used well drones can really benefit everyday life. A good example of this was in the Netherlands where the basic drone frame was adapted and tested, assisting medical emergencies earlier this year. The ‘Ambulance Drone’ is able to transport defibrillator, medication and CPR aids to medical emergencies when road ambulances aren’t able to get to the patient quick enough. The device also allows for two way communication, helping the public assist the injured if medical personnel aren’t at the scene by the time the drone arrives. The Netherlands have not fully released this in the medical industry yet, however, initial tests have been promising.

Amazon is also finally looking to release their drone delivery system to the public next year. Although they have been testing the delivery option since 2016, a change in the UK national air traffic control service (NATS) has made drone delivery a real possibility in the UK. NATS have confirmed that drones will be allowed to be flown beyond their operator’s line of sight (Evening Standard) meaning Amazon will be able to schedule deliveries. This will be great for many consumers as they will be able to receive packages within hours, rather than days. However, despite the positives, could there be negative knock-on effects to those employed to do deliveries if this was more of a widespread service?

With technology being tested daily, on top of the added impact it may have if drones replace human delivery jobs, do you think the evolution of drones is a benefit for the future or a hindrance?