Drones are expected to feature heavily on many a Christmas wish-list this year - from the in-the-palm-of-your-hand internal toys which can fly around the living room, to the top of the range, £700+ drones used to explore the amazing British countryside and capture incredible photos. Drones have truly become the must-have gadget for 2017.
However, it's critical that while fun must remain paramount, safety must also remain absolutely front of mind when using the larger end devices outside.
In recent years, we've worked hard to educate drone flyers about the need to be responsible while flying. Drones are sometimes seen as toys in many respects for those using them for non-commercial purposes, but importantly they come with a rulebook; rules which are embedded to ensure the safety of themselves and all those around them.
Drones have a unique element to them in that having opened the box, charged the battery and got your smartphone configured to control it, you can then take to the skies and inhabit airspace. No other gadget has this ability - and in the same way that you wouldn't buy a remote-control car and then immediately take it out onto the M4, drone owners must be cognisant at all times that their gadgets are effectively using airspace.
It's for this reason that the Dronecode was first developed. It's a set of rules laid out to ensure safe, responsible use of drones to maintain the UK's excellent air safety record. Over the last few months we've been conducting research into the first Code to see how well it has been adopted and recognised and on the back of this, we've created a new version to further ensure safety remains as important as fun.
The new Dronecode is supported with an easy to remember mnemonic:
• Don't fly near airports or airfields
• Remember to stay below 400ft (120m) and at least 150ft (50m) away from buildings and people
• Observe your drone at all times
• Never fly near aircraft
• Enjoy responsibly
These rules apply to all those consumers flying for fun, but also for photographers and amateur vidoegraphers using drones to capture incredible footage and imagery. Commercial operators (those using drones to make money) have to take a dedicated course and get the requisite license; but as more and more consumers are getting into drones as a hobby it is key that education continues so that the fun remains, but safety isn't compromised.
The research we conducted into the drone market is extensive and there are lots of learnings to be taken from it - learnings on our side in terms of being clearer and enforcing regulation, as well as learnings on the side of consumers and how they need to adhere to rules and regulations to ensure that drones can remain a fun gadget for hobbyists, a useful professional accessory to commercial operators, and an important, multibillion dollar opportunity for wider industries and the aviation sector.
It's an exciting time to be involved in the growth of the drone market - we want to absolutely ensure people have fun with their own gadget; but we must ensure safety is key. At times like Christmas, when many will be receiving them and enthusiastically unpacking them and taking them out, responsibility can sometimes be lost amid the excitement. This Christmas, we want to make sure people are aware of the Dronecode before taking to the skies.
You can see the Dronecode and research at www.dronesafe.uk