Use of drones and model aircraft has grown rapidly in recent years and the potential commercial and personal benefits they offer for the UK are huge.
To fully realise all of these, we need to make sure that remotely piloted aircraft continue to be used safely. One of the ways we’ll achieve this is by understanding the changing nature of safety concerns as aircraft are put to different uses and the number of flights grows.
In January 2022, we took the first step in a programme of work to build a clear and easy-to-use system for gathering and sharing information on safety-related occurrences.
The UK’s remotely piloted aircraft community has a long record of safe flying and we’re asking for their help to ensure this continues at a time of exciting change.
Recent years have seen a huge increase in remote flying activity. The number of registered flyers and operators now exceeds half a million and continues to grow. There are more flights being made than ever before. And the variety of reasons for those flights is expanding as new technologies and capabilities are introduced.
With the promise of a new era in remote flying, we want the UK to be ready to embrace the possibilities for remote flight. For example, if appropriate, this might include developing a regulatory and learning framework that facilitates safe flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in non-segregated airspace.
Ensuring the safety of the public as well as other airspace users, such as general aviation, emergency services, and commercial aircraft, will be essential to realising our ambitions.
Building the safety case
We’re committed to airspace access for all. As well as ensuring that those who have been flying for years are able to continue to enjoy their hobby or work safely, we want everyone to be able to maximise the new possibilities. To facilitate this, we need to build a safety case that demonstrates that users will be able to fly safely.
One of our key steps in building the safety case and the related regulatory framework is ensuring that we, and other relevant parties, fully understand all of the safety considerations. To do that, we need an effective system for gathering and sharing safety information from the people who are out there flying.
How the remotely piloted aircraft community have been helping
As one of our first steps, we wanted to find out more about the experience of the flying community’s experience of safety occurrences and reporting.
We invited all flyers and operators with authorisations to take part in a survey, held in January and February 2022. This survey was a key element of the discovery phase of the programme.
The survey’s results gave us lots of insight into the flying community’s current views on and experience of reporting safety incidents. This enabled us to understand more about what is and is not working now, and about the community’s thoughts and ideas for a future system.
We analysed the survey data and other information we collected during the discovery phase of our work. You can read about what we found in these two documents:
- Discovery Summary Report – a summary of the discovery stage of the project, including what we did, what we found, and what we plan to do next
- Survey Summary Report – a summary of the survey that the drone and model aircraft community took part in, including why we undertook it, what we did, and what we found
This short video set out why we’re undertaking the project:
Together with stakeholders at the CAA and other organisations, we’re establishing a plan for the next phase of work to address our findings so far.
We’ll share details of that plan when we have it.