Regulators will have to distinguish between “toys and tools” to gain public acceptance for the wider use of drones and autonomous flight.
That’s the opinion of Dr Pippa Malgrem, co-founder of drone manufacturer H Robotics. “Its not just an issue in the drone space, its an issue generally with autonomous vehicles. For example people are probably content to live in a world where milliions of people get killed in a car accident every year.”
“But one accident which kills a person from an autonomous vehicle creates major news headlines. There is a discomfort in society generally with autonomous vehicles.”
H Robotics manufactures drones for applications such as mining, oil and gas. Malgrem said that people were much more confident about drone use within a “controlled and contained environment.”
She added: “What I suspect is going to happen is that the regulators are going to get less and less comfortable with the idea of people manually flying drones, especially in urban areas.
And they are going to push everybody much more into autonomous flying, where there are known routes and known paths and usually with a purpose as well.”
She said their uses could become more acceptable with uses such as point to point delivery of hospital supplies or human organs.
Distinction to be made between "tools and toys"
She added: “There is a distinction to be made between tools and toys, particularly in the drone space.”
She predicted that the “toy makers” of drones which flew in back gardens would be required to have a beacon system to alert people to where they are and could be built with height limiters, so could not be flown above a limit of 400ft, for example.
Malgrem added that drones for applications would also have regulations built in as standard. H Robotics drones are built as part of fleet management systems and cannot be operated without log-ins and key cards.