Ron Bartsch, James Coyne and Katherine Gray, Routledge, £49 e-book, £70 hardback

Drones in Society: exploring the strange new world of unmanned aircraft

At only 160 pages, this easy-to-delve-into book examines the key issues about unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), charting their growth from military uses to a tool that has applications in everything from agricultural spraying to inspection of emergency situations and patrolling borders. 




Each author is an expert in UASs. Lead author, Ron Bartsch, has worked in the aviation industry for more than 30 years and is a former director of the Australian Association of Unmanned Systems.  

This is reflected in the fascinating detail they provide about the technology’s development and its end-use applications. The book starts by discussing the terminology and different definitions of UASs before moving on to cover the regulations governing their use. This includes brief summaries of the legal requirements in selected countries, including the US, UK and Australia.            

The downside is that the book only briefly references the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which lays down the safety requirements an operator must comply with before they can operate a UAS in UK airspace. The book can also be a little confusing when the authors allude to the fact that the CAA does not have any specific UAS regulations and then mentions that in civil aviation guidance (CAP 722, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations in UK Airspace) there are rules that provide governance for operators to comply with (articles 94 and 95). It is worth noting that UAS operators have been prosecuted for not following these rules and fined thousands of pounds.

 Anyone who wants to fly a UAS in the UK for commercial work needs consent from the CAA. To obtain what is known as a permission for commercial operations, they will need a remote pilot competence certificate and to pass a flight test, invigilated by CAA-approved commercial organisations called national qualified entities. Some concessions from the full remote pilot competence requirements are available if the prospective user already has suitable piloting qualifications. (For more detail see our feature on UAS’s

Chapters 6 and 7, which cover invasion of privacy and terrorism, highlight some of the negative uses of remotely operated aerial vehicles. Chapter 9, however, covers the positive applications, from fighting the Zika virus to robotic medical couriers. A well written book, it provides an accurate account of the good, bad and ugly uses for UASs. Unfortunately, there are several similar accounts already out there.

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