With dozens of companies and agencies lining up to use drones in civilian airspace over Britain for surveillance, test flights, data collection, border patrol, the agency tasked with sorting out the regulations for flying drones is the Civil Aviation Authority.
- Drones are unreliable and have a record of crashing, when contact is lost between the drone and ground control, there is no pilot to sort out problems.
- Drones are typically controlled by non pilots (indeed saving money on pilots is one of their advantages)
- Proposed uses for drones are proliferating, there may be very many of them to coordinate in airspace. One source estimates that drones will cost as little as 1/300 th the price of the equivalent helicopter support.
- Some uses present new legal issues, like surrepticious listening to private conversations. Furthermore, a great many kinds of data may be collected, like infrared signature, wireless signals, etc.
- There is a range of drone sizes, some commercial drones may be smaller than remote controlled hobby airplanes
- Many drones can be launched from virtually anywhere, and don’t need to return to a registered airport to land.
In October 2010 the Guardian reported the CAA as saying:
“In the wrong hands or used irresponsibly in built-up areas, or too close to other people or property, they represent a very real safety risk,”