Drone legislation will become significantly more stringent over the next decade, and hobbyists as well as businesses that depend on drones for their operations, may need to start planning now for how to manage their resultant increased risks.
This is according to Johannes du Plessis, Legal Advisor at RBS (Risk Benefit Solutions Pty Ltd), a Financial Services Provider, who says that with commercial drone use increasing exponentially, the risk of drones damaging property, injuring persons, trespassing, or infringing on the privacy, dignity and safety of individuals, has risen substantially.
“The Standard and Recommended Development Plan of the International Civil Aviation Organisation suggests that countries should (as a first and second phase), accommodate, integrate and regulate drones into on-segregated airspace by the end of 2018,” he says.
He adds that in accordance with such recommendations, recent laws were enacted which, for example, obliges commercial operators of drones to be licenced and undergo medical examinations.
“The laws already enacted also regulate both commercial and recreational drone operators on how and where to fly drones. For example, when a drone is being used for private use, the drone may only be flown in Restricted Visual Line of Sight which means within 500m of the pilot, and never to exceed the height of the highest obstacle within 300m of the pilot, during which the pilot can maintain direct unaided visual contact with the device to manage its flight and collision avoidance. Additionally, the drone operator must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities.”
Du Plessis notes that further controls will be put in place by way of the third and fourth phases of the aforementioned development plan. “The third phase of the development plan entails integrating drones into air traffic. This phase is supposed to be finalised in 2023. The fourth and last phase will entail that drones be fully integrated within civil air navigation systems using 4D trajectory-based operations, which is planned to be finalised by 2028.”
In effect, he explains that drone operators may soon have to request air traffic control authorisation to fly their drones in certain areas, and be required to record and store data related to the travel paths of the drones, in order to be audited and reviewed for infringements.
“With the legal arena creating so many controls in response to the clear increased risk, individuals and businesses should also implement certain risk management controls themselves in relation to their drones.” In addition, every drone user, whether private or commercial, should make sure that he or she takes out the correct drone insurance policy to protect both the drone as an asset and the drone operator’s liability.
“Experienced brokers are becoming a much more important part of this insurance process, as most drone insurers’ policies differ from each other. Also, each policy under the same insurer may differ from another. For example, some insurers or policies only cover qualified drone pilots, while others may insure unqualified and qualified pilots alike. With this in mind, it is highly recommended that all drone users begin to update their existing policies with the help of their broker, and plan for the regulations to come,” Du Plessis concludes.