Guest post: Education is key to drone safety

The CAA’s DroneCode sets out how to fly your drone safely

Drones have amazing possibilities, but to ensure they are able to live up to their future potential they have to be flown safely now.

Unfortunately the number of reports from pilots indicating that a drone had flown too close to their aircraft is on the rise. Many people flying drones have little or no knowledge of aviation, or what happens in the airspace above them. And until they brought a drone there was no reason why they should. But once you start flying something in the UK’s complex airspace it’s really important that you have a knowledge of the simple do’s and don’ts. That’s why we’ve kicked off a wide-ranging education programme for drone users.

Very soon we’ll be re-launching the UK dronecode which offers simple advice for safe flying.  As part of the re-development of the code we talked to drone users to understand their views on the current regulations and the kind of information they want. Making sure it will be fit for purpose.

We’ll be at the Drone Show in December; we’ve been working hard with the media to ensure safety messages appear in drone articles in publications like photography magazines and we’re about to launch a really exciting competition, all to help spread the word.

Another exciting plan being developed is to work with school science teachers to provide them with drone kits for students to build in lessons. As they learn how drones work they also learn how to fly drones safely.

We’re working with NATS, the wider aviation industry and, really importantly, drone users, manufacturers and those selling drones to make sure the advice is what people really want and it reaches as many drone users as possible.

All the work is aimed at safety education. We want to be helpful and proactive. But if there are incidents where people have caused an incident by flying unsafely then they also need to know the penalties that they could face – including prison.

Christmas is an obvious period for us to be out and about with the drone safe flying message and we’ll be running a media campaign to get as much about good drone flying into articles when there’s lots of potential new drone users around.

But this isn’t a quick fix. In communication terms what we’re running is a behavioural change programme, similar to the drink drive campaign or the well-known stop, look listen road safety advice. These take time to break through into common knowledge with the general public. So we’re in it for the long-term!

This is the biggest drone education campaign ever in the UK and with the combined support of the aviation and drone communities we’re really hopeful that it can play a part in ensuring the future of drones.

So, look out for the exciting initiatives to come. Enjoy your drone (I love flying them when I can!) and please, fly safely.