Updated: Apr 2, 2019
More and more uses are continuing to be found for drone technology, from delivering packages (big in our hometown of Cambridge) to getting defibrillators to the scene of a medical emergency far more quickly than any ambulance could ever arrive on the scene. Farmers are using drones within agriculture to maximise crop yields and reduce the time it takes to do even the most basic of tasks. For the past 3 years, we have heard research body after think tank telling us how many billions the industry is going to be worth next year. Many drone pilots would like to know where this money is! But all indications are that this year could be the turning point for the industry.
Until now the biggest thorn in the industries side has been unqualified, unsafe and uninsured amateur drone pilots carrying out work with drones and getting paid for it. These amateur pilots are not only flying illegally, but they are charging rates that do not accurately reflect the level of skill and training that real, qualified and safe drone pilots are charging (I heard of one quote recently of less than £100 for a roof survey) The clients who are using these ‘amateurs’ all inevitably have a bad experience and sometimes a dangerous one. These experiences and the people who are flying UAV’s in a dangerous manner are the reason the industry has taken so long to really become an industry.
I recently had a conversation with a client, and told him that in my opinion we are still really within the first 18 months of being a ‘bona fide’ industry, primarily due to the massive developments in UAV technology we have seen over the past 2 years, driven by the huge leaps forward in smartphones. So why haven’t we seen the massive growth predicted in the aforementioned reports? Because it’s easier and cheaper to hire an illegal drone pilot than it is to hire a qualified professional. And I’m not talking about deliberate offenders, I’m also including the ‘friend who will do it for a beer’ and ‘I have a Mavic, ill do it myself’. Later the year the government is set to raise the bar by regulating drone ownership, and ease of access some people have to the technology will be made more difficult and expensive. Along with this, the regulations will be highlighted to the entire country, including that in order to carry out a commercial function you need to be, or hire a qualified pilot who is insured and has the appropriate permissions in place and also the consequences for those who ignore the rules. It may take a month or two for the effects to be seen, but all of those who previously ‘had a mate’ or ‘owned a drone’ will know that they have to contact one of the 3,500 PfCO holders in the UK to carry out the job for them.