Toward Global Drone Regulation

​Regulatory issues are key to the deployment of drones and the need for a more uniform set of rules has been acknowledged by regulators in the US and UK. While a more streamlined and relaxed regulatory environment would benefit filmmakers in the US in particular, the driver is undoubtedly Amazon which is pushing to rollout autonomous drone deliveries.

In a special panel convened on the subject at CES, Amazon vice president for global innovation policy and communications Paul Misener said it would be adequate to have consistency within large regions of the world – for example, within the U.S. or within Europe.

Misener said, “It’s certainly desirable to have a degree of uniformity globally in commercial drone regulations but if the U.S and Europe had some differences, that would be okay. Where it would be a problem is if Texas had a rule that Arkansas didn’t, or if Belgium had a rule that France didn’t. Those kinds of inconsistencies would cause all sorts of cross-border delivery problems.”

He pointed out that in the U.S., there’s been a proliferation of state bills that “could affect the ability of entrepreneurs or larger enterprises to to do business across borders.”

Amazon has already conducted its first trials of drone delivery service Prime Air in the UK.

“We are working on making the UK a great place to innovate with drones, taking into account safety and privacy,” said Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital and culture. “If we set good consistent regulations internationally, then manufacturers can put some of these safety features into the drones. If you’re going to use drones the world over, it’s to the benefit of everyone to make sure that collaboration involves regulators, industry and other stakeholders representing the average citizen.”

The FAA’s Senior Advisor, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Marke Gibson said the agency needed academia, regulations and industry to work together. “We need a collaborative environment with other countries,” he said, adding that the FAA are currently involved in a number of bilateral international discussions.

For a sign of the future we might look to Singapore which has advanced plans to develop a traffic management system to monitor hundreds of drones fitted with detect-and-avoid systems. Proposals include official takeoff and landing zones, and aerial ‘lanes’ crossing the city state.

“They’ve come up with a model that we’ll be piloting in 2018,” said Jessie Mooberry, COO at Singapore-based drone startup SwarmX. “If we knew what those countries’ regulations were, we could plan and design our drones to take that into consideration. If we had a permission that was valid internationally rather than just one locale, it would make our lives easier and you’d see more innovation and democratisation.”

Privacy and security are becoming major concerns. “It is very important for the industry to take into account. In the public debate about drones, it’s really important to get this right,” stressed Hancock.

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