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ISO publishes first ever drone standards

Written by Peter Walker
21/11/18

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has released the first ever worldwide standards for the drone industry.

The long-awaited rulebook has been developed after several years of collaboration between standards institutions from across the world and is expected to trigger an acceleration of growth within the drone industry. The standards should now guide how drones are used safely and effectively in a framework of regulatory compliance.

The ISO Draft International Standards for Drone Operations have been formally released for public consultation, with drone professionals, academics, businesses and the general public being invited to submit comments by 21 Jan 2019. Final adoption is expected worldwide later next year.

The document addresses operational requirements of the more recognised and prevalent aerial drones, including protocols on safety, security and overall etiquette which will shape regulation and legislation. It is the first in a four part series for aerial drones, with the next three addressing general specifications, manufacturing quality and unmanned traffic management.

The main focus is on air safety, particularly in connection with drone use around airports and other sensitive locations. The standards promote and reinforce compliance regarding no-fly zones, local regulation, flight log protocols, maintenance, training and flight planning documentation. Social responsibility is also at the heart of the standards, strengthening the responsible use of a technology that aims to improve and not obstruct everyday life.

The effectiveness of the standards in improving air safety will be further strengthened by the rapid development of geo-fencing and of counter-drone technology, providing frontline protection against ‘rogue’ drone use.

The standards also attempt to address public concerns surrounding privacy and data protection, demanding that operators have appropriate systems to handle data and control planning when flying.

The hardware and software of all related operating equipment must also be kept up to date. Significantly, the fail-safe of human intervention is required for all drone flights, including autonomous operations; ensuring that drone operators are accountable.

Empowered by standards, the drone industry could be key to solving some of the most pressing economic, transport, security, environmental and productivity challenges faced by governments throughout the world – reducing road traffic, easing congestion, saving lives through a reduction in accidents and reducing pollution in cities.

PwC recently predicted that the UK aerial drone industry will contribute £42 billion and 628,000 jobs to the UK economy by 2030, while Goldman Sachs estimated that drones worldwide are evolving into a $100 billion market by 2020.

Robert Garbett, convenor of the ISO Working Group responsible for global drone operational standards, chairman of the BSI Committee for UK Drone Standards and founder of consultancy Drone Major Group, said: “These standards will undoubtedly lead to a new confidence in safety, security and compliance within this dynamic industry, resulting in a massive expansion in the availability and use of drone technology in the years to come.”

He continued: “It’s very encouraging that the UK government is a world leader in recognising the importance of this vital business sector, informed by the first drone standards, it is expected that the forthcoming UK Drone Bill, due in early 2019, will create a regulatory framework that allows the industry to flourish in an environment that is both safe and responsible.”