Cover of drone survey
The survey questioned over 2,000 people in the UK on their view of drone operations (RAeS/ComRes)

A new survey commissioned by the RAeS asked the general public a number of questions relating to the use of drones in the UK. The online survey interviewed 2,043 British adults.

The survey found that younger adults were more positive than older British adults about the contribution of drones to the UK economy and society [18-24 (53%), 35-44 (56%) and 65+ (39%)]. Respondents aged over 65 were also much keener on drone rules being enforced [18-24 (57%),
65+ (90%)].

The third part of the survey looked at public concerns over the use of drones with regards to the difficulty of tracing operators, invasions of privacy, personal and public safety, national security, commercial sensitivity and noise.

  • Operator traceability was the biggest concern (79% concerned vs 15% not)
  • Privacy, safety and national security were all major concerns (75%, 74% and 65%, respectively)
  • The risk of commercial businesses being spied on by drones only concerned 57% of those surveyed, compared to 36% who were not).

The final part of the survey canvassed public opinion over whether particular groups of drone operators, manufacturers and regulators were doing a good job at protecting the public interest with regard to drone technology.

  • Drone manufacturers came in for even more of a drubbing with 21% getting a ‘good job’ verdict, while 41% opted for ‘bad job’ and 38% were again undecided.
  • Disapproval rose even higher against the government’s role in protecting public interest (22% good, 45% bad, 33% don’t know).

The poor showing for both drone manufacturers and drone regulators protecting the public interest highlights that there is still public concern that drones are being sold without adequate awareness of their safe operation. Perhaps more needs to be done to highlight the work that is being done in this direction.

The highest level of disapproval was reserved for drone owners and operators who only received an 17% ‘good job’ approval against 47% bad job and 35%
don’t know.

The RAeS plans to repeat this survey in 12 months’ time to see if public awareness of drones has changed and to gauge the effectiveness of
education campaigns.

Regular readers and Patrick Egan buffs will remember that Patrick opened his 2016 sUSB keynote by announcing that the industry had a PR problem. He used a survey from the UK to make the point – 58% of all respondents thought that drones should be banned because “they freak me out.”
This survey doesn’t contradict those findings – though to be scholarly about it “drones freak me out” was not a question or an answer. Close attention should be paid to the conclusions by the various associations and alliances that claim to represent the industry since it is reasonable to assume that the US and UK publics are more similar than not in their awareness of and concerns about drones.
History has taught us that it is generally more effective and less expensive to be proactive than to try and shove the genie back in the bottle of public opinion. Yes, I get it. This has to be a coordinated, sustained, well-funded undertaking. The effort needs to be proportional to the prize – especially if one wants to believe AUVSI (one shouldn’t…)



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