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Next steps for developing the UK’s drone sector

Morning, Monday, 28th June 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will focus on policy and industry priorities for supporting the development of emerging drone applications across key industries - and next steps in the development of airspace management systems that enable expansion for the drone sector and use cases.

The seminar will be an opportunity to discuss the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act and its planned reform the management of airspace and air traffic services - as well as the new European drones regulation that came into force at the end of last year, much of which the UK is mirroring in its own regulation policies.

We are very pleased to be able to include in this conference a keynote session with Robert Courts MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport as well as keynote contributions from Chief Inspector Simon Bachelor, Legislation and Policy Lead, Counter Drones, National Police Chiefs’ Council; and a senior speaker confirmed from BT.

The agenda will bring out latest thinking on:

  • regulating drone activity - tackling the misuse of unmanned aircraft, plans to harmonise the UK approach with new EU directives, and standardising drone rules across commercial and leisure sectors
  • sector development - latest thinking on use cases in logistics, construction, defence, telecoms, and energy, as well as business models and communicating value to potential industry partners
  • drone insurance provision - addressing regulatory and technological barriers, and setting out a robust enforcement framework
  • drones and the Government’s policy agenda - sector opportunities in the context of:
    • increased support for UK R&D
    • the geospatial and location data strategy
    • land management priorities
    • the new defence strategy
    • ambitions for a green aviation revolution

The agenda

  • Progress on the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act, and opportunities for establishing safe use of drone technology, and leading internationally on regulation setting and industry development
  • Reducing inappropriate use - assessing policy options for future enforcement power and safeguards
  • Adapting to increased drone use - modernising airspace management, coordinating operability alongside aviation, and refining systems to enable drone commerce and transport services
  • Designing effective commercial models and integrating European drone regulation - standardising rules and regulation, and developing the underpinning insurance framework to support innovation
  • Reducing barriers - commercialising materials and technology, harnessing location and geospatial data, developing business cases for asset management and utilities, and communicating cost-saving and efficiency opportunities
  • Unlocking the potential of commercial drone operations in the UK and competing as a sector leader on the global stage

Key areas for discussion:

The Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act:

  • policy priorities - what is needed for an airspace management system for UAS technology, and priorities for implementing the Act, including:
    • regulation - ensuring that it allows room for innovation, and also establishes the UK’s leadership in rules setting
    • communicating change - making sure aviation authorities and stakeholders are clear on the changes to rules and guidance, and how it affects them
    • mirroring European rule standardisation - communicating changes around user registration systems, and streamlining the treatment of drones for leisure and commercial uses
  • modernising enforcement powers - next steps for tackling illegal activities and ensuring safe drone use:
    • policing:
      • the scope of the new powers proposed in the Act
      • how powers can be tightened to enable safe drone use
    • sanctions:
      • best practice for exercising deterrents on unmanned aircraft and their pilots
      • the application, effectiveness and proportionality of proposed penalties and fines
  • secure operability alongside aviation - reinforcing rules on drone use around airports, rolling out geo-fencing and innovative measures of defence, and ensuring risk and disruption is minimised
  • balancing commercial and leisure needs:
    • ensuring safety
    • setting standards on UAS size and weight
    • taking a long-term view on insurance needs and options
    • modernising airspace management for drone commerce services

Opportunities for drone utilisation across key industries - widening the business case of unmanned aircraft, and overcoming barriers to adoption:

  • pairing with data and geospatial technologies:
    • maximising drone-use reliability with geospatial autonomous applications
    • widening the use-case of drones for data users, location data gathering services, and better enabling transport systems and innovation
    • latest thinking on utilising drones for logistics
  • infrastructure and asset management:
    • widening the applications of drone use for scaling up utilities inspection
    • increasing monitoring safety and reducing costs
    • what is needed to enhance long-term adoption across key infrastructure stakeholders
  • unlocking benefits for rural and vulnerable communities:
    • lessons learned from the use of UAS technology to deliver COVID supplies
    • long-distance light commerce
    • the potential role of unmanned aircraft for emergency services

Next steps for developing the UK’s drone industry - what is needed to ensure UK leadership in the sector:

  • reducing production costs - priorities for tailored cost reductions, including:
    • innovating production processes
    • integrating latest developments in low-cost materials
    • advances in aerial robotics, batteries, motors, and software
  • scaling regional capabilities - looking at options for:
    • boosting regional innovation centre activity
    • increasing the flow of goods from manufacture to market
    • supporting the productive growth and recovery of regional economies

A scan of relevant developments:

  • the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act - currently in the final stages in Parliament, with aims to:
    • modernise the management of airspace and air traffic services
    • update the powers conferred to police and air management officials for policing unmanned aircraft use, and set penalties for those violating rules concerning drone use
  • remote piloting of drones approved - the decision from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, with:
    • the first trial project authorising drones to operate Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS), marking a considerable change in the way that the technology is regulated
    • the Royal Mail out-of-sight autonomous drone trial flight between the UK mainland and the Isles of Scilly, as part of its plans to deliver health supplies in a trial to explore the possibility of drone technology being used to deliver to remote areas in the UK
  • European drones regulation - new EU regulations which came into force at the end of 2020:
    • applying a risk-based framework for commercial and leisure drone use across EU regulated skies, standardising rules across nations and drone types and sizes
    • with the UK mirroring much of the new initiatives despite having left the EU’s institutions
  • initiatives for tackling illicit use-cases of drone technology:
    • UK Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy - the legacy strategy outlining the Government’s long-term approach
    • Countering Threats from Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) - more recent guidance set by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office for addressing evolving threats from C-UAS
  • The UK’s geospatial strategy 2020 to 2025 - identifying the potential of drones to contribute to optimisation of logistics worth £2bn per year, with possibilities such as:
    • using satellite tracing to calculate single-flight drone insurance premiums
    • wider applicability for transport services, location data gathering, and enhancing airspace management
  • Future Flight Challenge:
    • with £33.5m of competition funding earmarked for drone technology
    • project use cases include unmanned aircraft for transporting COVID supplies, remote inspection of assets and infrastructure, humanitarian solutions, and light commerce
  • Transport location data competition - the £2m project aims to support projects that utilise location data for innovating new forms of mobility, with drone technology and geo-fencing:
    • supporting development of greater use cases for drone swarms and fleets
    • with competition winners working in the areas of mobility as a service, active travel, supply chains and boosting capacity
  • drone technology ‘Test and Development Area’ - being launched in the City of Liverpool:
    • being delivered by Drone Major Group in partnership with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA
    • aiming to for commercially viable, scalable and environmentally sustainable drone services across all surface, underwater, air, and space environments
  • Tin Lid Protection Ltd achieve third party certification - by the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner:
    • for the use by this commercial drone company specialising in security for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) surveillance cameras
    • operating in line with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice criteria for proportionately, effectively, transparently and in pursuit of a legitimate aim

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; Crown Commercial Services; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; the Geospatial Commission; the Health and Safety Executive; HM Revenue & Customs; the Maritime and Coastguard Agency; the Military Aviation Authority; the Ministry of Defence; the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales; the UK Space Agency and the Welsh Government.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from stakeholders in the UK drone sector including member groups, equipment manufacturers, aviation and airspace groups, software and IT developers, business and technology consultancies, those involved in logistics, defence contractors, security groups, as well as researchers from academia and higher education, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Robert Courts MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport

Keynote Speakers

Chief Inspector Simon Bachelor

Legislation and Policy Lead, Counter Drones, National Police Chiefs Council

Dave Pankhurst

Head of Drone Solutions, BT Enterprise

Robert Courts MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport

Robert Garbett

Chief Executive Officer, Drone Major Group


Emma Best AM

Londonwide Assembly Member, and Deputy Leader, Conservatives Waltham Forest

Councillor Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council


Tommy Wilson

Drone Partnerships Manager, Flock

Rikke Carmichael

Head of Air Operations, Network Rail

George Burne

Business Development Manager, Inspection Industry, COPTRZ

Jeremy Bennington

Vice President, Position, Navigation, & Time Assurance, Spirent Communications

Andrew McQuillan

Managing Director, Crowded Space Drones

Julia Jiggins

Avionics Head of Strategy, Thales UK

Anne-Lise Scaillierez

Partner, The Drone Office; and Director of ARPAS-UK, the UK Drone Association

Simon Phippard

Of Counsel, Aviation and Aerospace Practice, Bird and Bird

Andrew Chadwick

Technology Innovation Manager - Aviation, Connected Places Catapult