Ever since the invention of drones, governments all over the world have considered how best to regulate them. Thankfully, the International Standards Organisation has stepped in to introduce the world’s first ever drone standards, which should play an essential role in guiding how drones are used safely and effectively in a framework of regulatory compliance.

The new, long awaited standards have been developed after several years of global collaboration between standards institutions from across the world and are expected to trigger rapid acceleration of growth within the drone industry as organisations throughout the world are galvanised to adopt drone technology against a new background of reassurance on safety and security.

The ISO Draft International Standards for Drone Operations are formally released today for public consultation, with drone professionals, academics, businesses and the general public being invited to submit comments by 21 Jan 2019 with final adoption of these standards expected in the US, UK and worldwide in 2019. 

The announcement by ISO is the first important step in the standardisation of the global drone industry, encompassing applications for all environments – surface, underwater, air and space. The first drone standards are particularly significant for the general public and government, in that they address operational requirements of the more recognised and prevalent aerial drones, including protocols on safety, security and overall ‘etiquette’ for the use of drones, which will shape regulation and legislation going forward. They are the first in a four-part series for aerial drones, with the next three addressing General Specifications, Manufacturing Quality and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM).

Air safety 

A prime characteristic of the ISO Standards, is their focus on air safety, which is at the forefront of public attention in connection with airports and other sensitive locations. The new standards act as a new ‘etiquette’ for drones which promote and reinforce compliance regarding no-fly zones, local regulation, flight log protocols, maintenance, training and flight planning documentation. Social responsibilityis 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-fencingand of counter-drone technology, providing frontline protection against ‘rogue’ drone use.

Privacy and data protection

The standards are also set to address public concerns surrounding privacy and data protection, demanding that operators must have appropriate systems to handle data alongside communications 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.  

The exciting future for drones

Empowered by standards, drones are set to provide the key to some of the most pressing economic, transport, security, environmental and productivity challenges faced by governments and industry throughout the world, reducing road traffic, easing congestion, saving lives through a reduction in accidents and reducing pollution in our cities. As well as speeding up the delivery of large-scale infrastructure projects, drones are expected to reduce the need for some major transport projects altogether.

New applications for drones are being developed daily. In particular revolutionary approaches are emerging for freight and passenger transportation, with drones providing a cost-effective and environmentally responsible alternative to traditional methods, relieving the burden on our already stretched road traffic system. Further applications in the agricultural, maritime, construction and energy sectors, among others, are already transforming businesses, with all industries and business sectors set to benefit from the Standards-led adoption of drone technology.  

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