UK Gov Has No Intention of Releasing Drone Study Data

It’s not enough that the UK drone study looking at collisions between UAVs and larger aircraft was flawed and seemingly biased from the outset. The UK government is now refusing to make public the data gathered in the study on the grounds of ‘security’.

This is in response to calls from the Drone Manufacturer’s Alliance Europe (DMAE) to hand over more than just the summary document that was published last week.

In a statement on behalf of DJI, GoPro and Parrot, the DMAE criticised the study, its methodology and its findings:

DfT released an 18-page summary of its testing results last week, which appears to indicate that the vast majority of consumer drones on the market today pose limited risk to civil aviation in general and to commercial airliners in particular. However, the summary left many questions unanswered about its methodology, modelling and results, making it difficult to use its findings as the basis for discussions about drone technology and regulations.

“DMAE strongly believes drone regulations should be based on scientific studies that quantify risk in order to minimize it. Unfortunately, these tests were conducted in secrecy, and the organizations involved have not published their results in detail or submitted them for peer review,” said Daniel Brinkwerth of DMAE. “This summary does not provide an adequate basis for designing safer drones or protecting the public. We ask DfT and its testing partners to publish their methodology and results, so drone

“This summary does not provide an adequate basis for designing safer drones or protecting the public. We ask DfT and its testing partners to publish their methodology and results, so drone manufacturers as well as regulators can use the full data set to improve public safety.”

The Register then reported that the UK government had no intention of releasing more information about the study: 

A DfT press officer told us that the full results of the test would not be released because of “security” concerns. We understand that the department claims to be worried that precise details of drone weights and speeds that cause damage to full-sized aircraft could get into the public domain. The department refused to put its reasons to us in writing.

UK Drone Study Controversy Isn’t Helping Anyone

So the UK government is not going to release the full test results because of ‘security concerns’. Presumably, the main concern is that the drone community and the wider public will clearly see how flawed the study was in the first place. The secondary concern might be that, armed with an intimate knowledge of aircrafts’ weak spots, nefarious drone pilots will start launching kamikaze missions at will.

What a mess.

The most unfortunate thing is that the study detracts from proposals that were not too heavy handed. Mandatory drone registration and safety testing is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it will hopefully help to curb the small minority of pilots flying irresponsibly.

However, basing the proposed legislation on a fundamentally flawed study with little to zero transparency is no way to win the trust of the drone community. It’s also no way to inform the public about the scale of the threat posed by an increased number of drones in the national airspace.

With every ‘near-miss’ making national headlines by a traffic-hungry media, governments have a responsibility to provide context and facts, not add fuel to the fire of sensationalism. As a result, they should only be funding and publishing credible studies that reflect the reality of drone technology.

Perhaps this latest controversy will push drone manufacturer alliances such as the DMAE to fund their own impartial studies into the risks their products pose to the airspace. Either that or continue to be at the whim of policy making based on sketchy science.

Malek Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for tech trends and innovation.
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