Drones bring benefits – and new risks

The rise of the drones has the potential to become a multi-billion dollar business. However, more drones in the skies also raise a number of new safety concerns.

WHETHER USED commercially for industrial inspections, aerial photography, border patrol, emergency deliveries and crop surveys or recreationally by millions, drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have the potential to become a multi-billion dollar business and deliver problem-solving technologies across numerous industries. However, more drones in the skies also raise a number of new safety concerns, ranging from collisions and crashes to cyber-attacks and terrorism.

To ensure safe UAS operations, systematic registration of unmanned aircraft and robust education and training of operators is necessary. There have already been enough incidents and near-misses involving UAS to generate concern that the likelihood of collisions and other loss events will grow as numbers multiply.

As drones are becoming smaller, cheaper and easier to use, growth prospects are surging: The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forecasts that by the end of 2016 in the US more than 600 000 UAS will be deployed for commercial use alone – three times the number of registered manned aircraft. In addition, 2-million UAS are expected to be in recreational use. Globally, the UAS market is forecast to reach some 5-million units by 2020 with the market for commercial application of UAS technology estimated to soar from US$2-bn to US$127-bn.

South Africa enacted regulations in 2015. Since then, four training organisations have been registered with aviation authorities. The country has 240 licence holders and 418 drones.

In Nigeria, UAS owners have to obtain permits from aviation and security authorities. For Kenya, various UAS projects such as those for tracking livestock theft, endangered species and for photography were terminated after regulators imposed bans citing security concerns. Rwanda is currently building a drone port with plans to have 18 of these nationally. The aviation authorities in Ghana have had safety regulations in place since 2011.

UAS in commercial use will increase greatly in the next decade because they are eff ective at carrying out menial or dangerous tasks. Work accidents, such as employees falling off  the roof on building inspections, and workers compensation losses are expected to decrease as a result. Emerging uses include delivering blood and vaccines to remote locations in Africa, ? ghting grass ? res and pest control.

Insurers are increasingly utilising UAS to make risk assessments of construction or infrastructure projects easier and safer.

Claims handling can also be made quicker and more eff ective by using drones to survey loss damage after major catastrophes. For example, when parts of Tianjin, China, were rendered inaccessible after major explosions last year, high resolution images taken by UAS after the blasts were compared with previous photographs to determine how many vehicles had been destroyed.

However, new risks and the potential for misuse of UAS technology need to be considered, too. UAS raise two priority safety concerns: mid-air collisions and the loss of control. A mid-air collision could happen if the pilot cannot see and avoid manned aircraft in time, especially low-? ying helicopters, agricultural aircraft and aircraft landing or taking-off . •

Date: 17 Jan 2017


Get Supply Chain News and Articles delivered to your email address.


Contact us

Mailing list

Get Supply Chain News and Articles delivered to your email address


About us

The single best source for Supply Chain Information

List your company now!