Exploring the risks of drones in crowded spaces

Exploring the risks of drones in crowded spaces

Drones are now more popular than ever, as fleets of drones take to the skies to complete an expanding list of tasks, or be flown recreationally. There are now more than 20,000 UK drone pilots licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), with more and more joining the list each month –  the use of drones in crowded spaces poses a unique challenge.

In this newly established environment, complex and crowded sites must be aware of the full range of risks associated with accidental or intentional drone incursions – critical in ensuring the continued safety of all involved, as well as avoiding penalties such as imprisonment.

Below, we take a deeper look at some of the greatest risks of drone accidents in crowded spaces, helping these sites to ensure that they are protected against a range of threats and potential damage.

Operating drones in crowded spaces

“The more time spent over people, the higher the risk.”

All sites must be aware of the current regulations preventing drones from flying over their protected airspace.

At the time of writing, drone pilots without the correct permissions are forbidden to fly drones over people who are crowded together – due to a range of potential risks. Current CAA regulations state the following:

“Do not fly closer to people than 50 m, this includes people in buildings and transport, including cars, lorries, trains, and boats.

You must keep a minimum horizontal distance of 50 m between your drone or model aircraft and people. This creates a no-fly zone around people that goes all the way up to the legal height limit. It can help to think of this no-fly zone as a cylinder.

You must not fly over people in this no-fly zone, even if you fly higher than 50 m.”

Injury to others

From filming operations to large-scale events and transport hubs, the consequences of drone collision or misuse can be serious. While the weights of drones can vary greatly, even the most lightweight drones can cause significant damage to people.

As well as causing serious harm, drone collisions in crowded spaces can cause further damage or disruption – such as when distracting vehicle or equipment operators. Injury to others remains one of the greatest dangers of drone collisions and accidents and remains the greatest priority for any site where crowds occur.

Financial losses

When damage or disruption from drones does occur, pilots, drone operating companies and venues could be all be held responsible for repairs and consequential losses, resulting in compensation. If anyone were to be injured by drone collisions, they would have a right to sue.

Large-scale disruption can result in significant repair costs, compensation, and possible suspension of operations.

In 2018, a drone incursion that caused Gatwick airport to suspend operations for 36 hours saw the airport itself, as well as all airlines affected, lose tens of millions in combined lost revenue and compensation.

Reputational damage

Reputational damage is another risk of drone incursions in crowded sites.

The public has become increasingly aware of the use of drones, and the dangers that they present – leading to justified concerns about their safety and privacy. As a result, they expect any site to be able to provide the protection necessary.

Any negative incidents involving drones can lead to a loss of trust from the public and other stakeholders, compromising the confidence in both the site and the company behind it.

Damages to property

As well as causing potential harm to individuals a drone crash or misuse can also cause significant damage to buildings, equipment, and other property. This can often lead to costly repairs and delays in operations – leading to the financial and reputational damages previously discussed.

Violation of public privacy

Drones can easily be mounted with recording equipment such as cameras and microphones, prompting legitimate concerns over their impact on public privacy.

Flying drones that are recording either audio or video can infringe on the personal privacy of those in crowded spaces, regardless of how many subjects are being recorded and whether or not surveillance was the intended goal.

The consequence of violating public privacy extends far beyond causing disrespect or harm. The CAA states that “any photos or recordings you take may be covered by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).” A GDPR breach can result in heavy fines, the need to pay compensation, and reputational damage as well.

Providing unparalleled visibility and security

Flying drones can be an incredible hobby when done correctly. They enable a unique perspective and the potential to capture stunning images, but they must also be handled responsibly and in adherence with local regulations, such as the UK’s CAA. Learn more in our infographic below.

We’re committed to providing market-leading drone detection solutions for complex and crowded sites worldwide – elevating visibility and security to create safer spaces. To learn more, browse our complete range of market-leading solutions.