The Drone Racing League – a progressively big businessDrone Racing League

In a world of exponentially growing technology, the policy is struggling to keep up. In the coming week, the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) will partner with Flock to host a conference on the future of drones and drone policy. Drones represent a new and exciting technology, but the boom in their growth has left policymakers in the dust. I sat down with Ali Mahomed, an intern at Flock and student at the London School of Economics to talk about policy problems drone operators face that are preventing a new technological revolution.

“Firstly, we’re talking about commercial drones. What makes drones so impactful is that they can be used for a wide variety of purposes. For example, Amazon is proposing to use drones to deliver packages to people’s doorsteps. Walmart is proposing to use autonomous drones to count inventory in their warehouses. James Harrison is the CEO of Sky-Futures” – and also a speaker in the upcoming conference – “[where] they use drones to inspect oil rig structures and industrial facilities. The drone industry is growing rapidly and, whilst risky, this new technology provides a huge financial opportunity for the UK.”

A DJI DroneClément Bucco-Lechat

When talking about the potential for growth and the obstacles drones may face, Ali pinpointed the problems down to insurance. “Right now if you want to insure a drone, its premiums are sometimes more expensive than the drone itself, which creates a huge obstacle for the industry. By law, the drone operator is going to require insurance for flights. Because [drones are] a new type of technology, insurance companies are struggling to calculate premiums that are reflective of the actual risks involved with the drone flight. Regulators [have] started to acknowledge the huge potential in drones – they’ve identified them as a solution to congestion in cities – and so are striving to create a healthier drone ecosystem. Flock, a London-based startup, is building a Big-Data-driven risk analysis platform for drones which aggregates real-time contextual data from the surrounding environment of a drone flight, identifying and quantifying the risks present. Flock’s algorithm quantifies the risks of any given flight proposal and provides fully customised, pay-as-you-fly liability insurance to drone operators at the click of a button. Drone operators can use the risk metric to increase the safety of their flights, ultimately leading to a safer drone space in general.”

Finally, Ali spoke to us about the public’s attitude towards drone policy. “I think it’s very important that people are well-informed about drones. The symposium, which is open to the public, is bringing together key players in the drone industry. Getting experts to speak on this topic and then making that material available to the public is a huge step in informing them on the potential of drones. As the drone industry continues to develop technologically, it is natural that people will gain curiosity and research into drone policy themselves, looking into the potential benefits and risks.”

To hear more about this topic, the CUSPE and Flock drone symposium will take place on 1st March 2017 at 6:30 pm in LT1 of the Department of Engineering

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