The full Aviation Index report is available on NATS’ website: www.nats.aero/ai23
In a groundbreaking study conducted by the air traffic control service NATS, it has been revealed that the majority of the UK public is now firmly in favor of the widespread use of drones for an array of diverse applications. This shift in public opinion signifies a significant milestone for the drone industry, as it gains increasing recognition and support from the people it aims to serve.
Based on research conducted by Ipsos UK on behalf of NATS, the study highlights that the public is enthusiastic about the potential of drones in various sectors, ranging from healthcare to logistics and security.
NATS’ annual survey, known as the Aviation Index, brings to light the following key findings:
1. Strong Backing for Emergency Services Drones:
A remarkable 75% of the UK public supports the use of drones by emergency services. This marks a significant vote of confidence in the potential for drones to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of vital emergency response efforts.
2. Infrastructure Projects and Powerline Inspection:
Approximately 70% of respondents expressed their support for drones being used in infrastructure projects, including tasks such as inspecting power lines. Drones can play a pivotal role in ensuring the safety and integrity of critical infrastructure.
3. Routine Deliveries Gain Popularity:
Over half of those surveyed, 55%, embrace the idea of drones being utilised for routine deliveries. This demonstrates growing acceptance of drone technology as a practical solution for everyday tasks.
These findings represent a significant shift in public sentiment compared to the attitudes surveyed in 2021 when only 29% believed that the potential benefits of drones outweighed the negatives.
Russell Porter, NATS Head of New Airspace User Engagement, commented on the positive shift in public opinion, saying, “The potential for drones is huge, and it’s positive to see the public becoming more aware of this and supportive of it.”
As the professional use of drones continues to expand in the UK, NATS has been collaborating with drone companies, the Department for Transport, Civil Aviation Authority, and the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology to shape government policies and industry regulations.
Earlier this year, NATS, in partnership with drone operating companies and users, published a whitepaper outlining the necessary steps to unlock the full potential of the drone sector in the UK. A key focus of this initiative is enabling ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS) operations, allowing drones to operate beyond the operator’s direct line of sight.
Russell Porter emphasised the importance of this initiative, stating, “That’s not scalable in the longer term, and our whitepaper sets out the policy changes that would enable the industry to flourish.”
Among the recommendations put forth in the whitepaper are the adoption of ‘electronic conspicuity’ technology to enhance ‘see and avoid’ capabilities for both manned and un-manned aircraft. Additionally, the whitepaper calls for regulatory framework reforms to permit remotely piloted flights in a broader range of airspace, moving away from restricted or temporary environments.
The whitepaper also offers a roadmap for future airspace management for un-manned aircraft, providing industry stakeholders with a clear vision of how airspace can be optimised for drone operations.
Now in its sixth year, the Aviation Index has become an invaluable tool for understanding public sentiments on a wide range of topics, from drones and climate change to airport and airline preferences. The growing support for drones among the UK public is a clear indication of the transformative potential of this technology in shaping the future of various industries.
As the public increasingly embraces drones for a myriad of applications, RUAS has played an instrumental role in the development and implementation of drone technology across various sectors.
RUAS has been an indispensable partner in the evolution of drone applications. From enabling more efficient emergency response efforts to facilitating intricate surveying and inspections, RUAS has been a driving force in harnessing the potential of drones.
One of RUAS’s noteworthy contributions has been in bolstering the capabilities of critical infrastructure sectors. The rail network, universities, oil & gas, construction, military, and defence industries have all benefited immensely from RUAS’s expertise and support. By integrating drones into these sectors, RUAS has helped enhance safety, efficiency, and productivity in ways previously unimaginable.
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