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More than a toy

The decision by the UK Government to relax rules on drone usage so that Amazon can continue to explore the potential of airborne

Odyssey Toys Pocket Drone
Odyssey Toys Pocket Drone

parcel deliveries highlights the interest that many commercial organisations have in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

On July 25, Amazon reported that a cross-Government team supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had given it permission to conduct trials of beyond-line-of-sight operations in rural and suburban areas and for multiple drones to be operated by one person simultaneously.

These changes, which represent a significant loosening of CAA rules, have been introduced to help identify how drones can be used safely and reliably in the logistics industry and to establish what rules and regulations will be needed for the safe use of drones ‘beyond line of sight’.

While Amazon is still in the R&D phase of its Prime Air 30-minute parcel delivery service, organisations with less ambitious plans are already using drones for business purposes. According to The UK Drone Usage Report from DronesDirect., 14.2% of drone owners in the UK use their drone for work.

Tim Morley, Category Manager,
Tim Morley, Category Manager,

Following the CAA’s rule relaxation, Tim Morley, category manager at the online drone retailer, expects this number to increase.

“It’s great that the CAA are open to working with business and are Who uses drones?

The typical drone user is male, middle aged and interested in photography and hiking, according to The UK Drone Usage Report.

Drone owners are almost exclusively male (96.4%) and many have adopted the hobby later in life, with 52% aged 45 plus. A significant number list outdoor activities such as hiking and walking (42.3%) amongst their hobbies. Two thirds (67.9%) cite photography as one of their main interests outside droning. More than three quarters (77.4%) of those questioned have used their drone for videography, 74.5% for photography and 67.9% for entertainment. Other uses include exploring local neighbourhoods and capturing event footage.

encouraging drone usage within a commercial environment. This is a significant step towards safely helping to incorporate new drone technologies into everyday scenarios, something that will bring an array of new benefits to consumers,” he said.

The Drones Usage Report 2016 reveals that more than half a million people in the UK have used drones for work purposes, with the creative and photographic industries leading the way. Drones are already being used for deliveries of consumer products, to provide humanitarian aid and for security. We anticipate even more businesses using drones for commercial purposes following the recent change in rules from the CAA.”

Future use

Fishing with the DJI Phantom 4 - Fishing Edition.
Fishing with the DJI Phantom 4 – Fishing Edition.

Morley’s confidence is backed up by research carried out by YouGov for law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, which shows that around one third of business leaders are already using drones or expect to do so in the future (see table).

Typical is commercial pest control business Mitte. After successfully trialling the use of drones to inspect roofs for evidence of gulls’ nests, it has announced that it will now be using them for other services, including damage inspections, aerial mapping and, with the addition of heat cameras, the location of pests hidden in undergrowth.

To ensure corporate drone users operate within the law, Charles Russell Speechlys has produced a report* on the legal aspects of drone use, including damage inflicted by drones, aerial trespassing, privacy, drone security and personal responsibility. Meanwhile, drone pilot training academy UAVAir ( advises businesses to employ qualified drone pilots to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks of drone use.

Drones aren’t just toys. For businesses, they have interesting applications and serious ramifications for compliance. If you don’t do so already, it’s time you took them seriously.

* Charles Russell Speechlys – Ready for takeoff. Navigating the legal framework around drones for business can be viewed here.

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