Best-laid (flight) plans: drones and liability

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Love them or hate them, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, are increasingly used across all sectors of the economy, whether by hobbyists or commercial organisations. Sure, they can shut down airports and leave travellers stranded, injure bystanders in crowds, fly too close to helicopters or aeroplanes, carry drugs, or crash-land on the White House lawn but they can also assist emergency response teams, deliver humanitarian aid, aid conservationists, deliver goods from retailers, follow weather patterns, and make insurance inspections a whole lot easier.

They may be annoying and invasive (even posing a security threat) – and some drone pilots would be better off grounded – but there’s no doubt drones have benefits that are only now being appreciated. At the same time, they pose a unique risk. According to Dale McErlean, director of NTSU Aviation Solutions and AfricaUSC, one of the biggest issues is non-compliance with regulations, either due to ignorance or a misunderstanding of what a drone really is. “Many people think it’s a toy; they don’t realise one has to comply with the Civil Aviation Regulations,” she explains. “Also, drone pilots are often not aviators. They may be computer geeks, land surveyors or engineers. This increases the level of risk since they may not fully appreciate that flight is flight, whether you’re at 10 feet or 10 000 feet.”

To read the full article on drones and liability, download the March issue of RISKAFRICA magazine now!

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