For some, flying a drone however innocently, can result in some difficult explaining to the authorities. In mid-2015, YouTuber Stefan Michalak was flying his drone over the Natural History Museum, taking aerial footage of the stunning historic site, when museum officials who spotted his drone, mistook it for some 21st-century terrorist maneuver and alerted the police.
There followed a 4-hour long interrogation by police before Stefan was able to convince police that he was in fact and amateur photographer, and not a terrorist intent on targeting the museum.
But on a less dramatic scale than this, the drone pilot can quite easily find him / herself the target of unfounded suspicion. Many have found themselves accused of snooping or other sinister intentions, whilst some have simply angered / frustrated people who take issue with an unmanned aircraft flying in close proximity to their house.
Threat to Aircraft
There is no doubt that the ill-considered, or reckless flying of drones in some areas, have the potential to cause catastrophic damage, even with the most innocent of intentions.
Already in 2016 there has been an incident involving a drone which could have resulted in a major aviation disaster, over the heart of the UK government no less. On the 1st of February a drone flying at 2000ft over Westminster came within 20 meters of a passenger jet carrying over 70 people. The pilot reported that there had been a ‘high risk of collision’, and the incident was categorised by the Airspace Safety Body as a category A risk which could have resulted in tragedy. This fact is made much more frightening by the fact that the jet was flying over such a populated area at the time.
This is just one of many cases where a drone has come perilously close to passenger planes during takeoff and landing.
After a major rise in drone sales in the run-up to Christmas 2015, insurers went on a rampage to make perfectly clear that homeowners insurance did not cover damage or injuries caused by ‘unmanned flying machines’. It’s no surprise that this was the case, given that with new technology comes an insurance risk black hole, with providers unable to adequately assess the risks involved, and thus unable to issue policies.
The real fun will come when insurers finally do work out a system for insuring drone use; it could prove to be a costly affair.
What might the future hold?
Of course, the dangers of drone technology can be almost completely offset by their careful operation in-line with current legal regulations, as well as those which are yet to be put in place.
The Civil Aviation Authority has published The Drone Code which gives information on the legal restrictions of flying unmanned aircraft, as well as some commonsense advice on how to fly them safely.
With so much speculation about the viability of en masse drone flying, the question for the future of this burgeoning industry (for the mass market at least) must surely be, whether regulation with stifle their operation to such an extent, that they become pretty much pointless and to the average would-be pilot?