Drones / Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. A transition period, during which EU laws continue to apply in the UK, is due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement sets out transitional arrangements and negotiations for the future UK/EU relationship are ongoing.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – or drones – has been growing at significant rate in recent years. This is true, not only in relation to private recreational use, but also in a growing number of commercial contexts. 

The use of UAVs is now commonplace in the real estate, construction, infrastructure, planning and agriculture industries, and is an increasingly valuable tool for inspection, rescue and emergency services. It is used in journalism, insurance, security and marketing and, in certain parts of the world, it is already a much-used delivery system of everything from medical supplies to food and small electronic goods. All of this in addition to the extensive use of UAVs within the military and defence industries. After a decade of relatively muted investment activity, improved technologies, expanding applications and signs of a more facilitative regulatory framework mean that the UK drone industry is poised for significant investment over the coming years. 

The increased use of drones has been accompanied by an inevitable growth in related law and regulation. Most obviously, this can be seen in the guidelines which relate to the vehicles themselves and the applicable aviation and operational regulations - weight limitations, flight path restrictions, line-of sight requirements – much has been written on the evolving rules (and sanctions) which apply directly to the use of UAVs and our Regulatory team is well-placed to advise on these regulations.

However, the law as it relates to drones goes far beyond the "flight and vehicle" rules and regulations.  The increased prevalence of drones, and the constant evolution of their use into new areas of application, mean that "drone law" is now multifaceted and requires expertise across a wide (and ever-expanding) number of fields on which we can advise.

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