Regulation is a contentious issue in any industry and it’s a real juggling act between regulation that enables an industry to thrive or restrictions that will kill an industry even before it has had a chance to flourish.

Below are drone regulations Q&A with Sky-Futures Co-Founder and CEO, James Harrison.

Who’s setting the standards in today’s drone industry?

As the drone industry has matured, the industry sectors themselves have looked to the companies providing the professional services to set the standards. This is a much healthier and more beneficial route. It means that the well respected and safe operators can shape and drive the requirements based on their experience alongside their industry peers.

How can companies help set the standards in their industry?

By focussing on safe and fast adoption through transparent guidance, operators and end users collaborate to agree a standard within each industry sector clearly setting out its own standards and guidance for working which benefits the entire community.

The safety requirements for surveying a mine are different from working offshore on an oil platform, and this is reflected in the difference in the respective risk assessments, method statements and operating procedures. Overall, the more companies working safely and proving the return on investment for drone within each industry sector helps to speed adoption and awareness, the better it is for all businesses involved in the industry

What has Sky-Futures done to help the wider drone industry?

Sky-Futures has worked to establish: industry guidance; internal audited best practice for a drone company; verification for our inspection methodology and outputs; sector specific management and guidance; and training and certification. By doing this we’ve set out a best practice blueprint for companies who want to utilise drones for commercial industrial inspection.

What specific examples can you tell us about?

Lloyd’s Register is a global engineering, technical and business services organisation providing compliance, risk and technical consultancy services.  They have just published their guidance notes for inspections using unmanned aerial systems which were based on our best practice. We provided an inspection of a vessel in Singapore following significant planning with Lloyd’s Register and other industry end users. The results were shared freely with all parties and the benefits discussed and challenged openly. From our side, Steve Moir, our Engineering Manager worked to establish the KPIs for success and oversaw the trials. The goal was to further legitimise and speed up the adoption of drones in the O&G and maritime sectors. Lloyd’s Register published the guidance notes for interested parties to download from their website, so that anyone could access this information from a highly respected and trusted source.

We’ve also worked with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), to help create an ‘External Specialist Rating’ in the USA that accepts drone inspection as a methodology. Inspection companies using drone for maritime inspections now have a recognised path to follow to achieve ABS approval, and end clients can purchase services with confidence knowing that the inspection technique is approved.

Finally, we worked on industry guidance with Oil and Gas UK, BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell and service providers. The working group produced and agreed on the ‘Operational management standards and guidelines’, which is published by Oil and Gas UK.

What is your final message for those looking to regulate the industry?

Drones don’t need regulations; instead industry needs to set standards and guidance. We are at the beginning of the drone market, so the more professional companies that are involved driving standards and educating the end users, the faster the adoption.

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