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Civilian drones

Unmanned aircraft systems are increasingly being used for civilian purposes. This raises the question as to the economical benefits, social acceptance but also for possible problems. A recent survey tells how people in Germany assess the opportunities and risks. What do the citizens say and what are the proposals made by the German Aviation Association (BDL) for government action?

Unmanned aircraft systems, popularly called drones, are increasingly being used for civilian purposes - from public institutions to commercial providers and private individuals. Today, anyone can buy a drone for comparatively little money, some of which can be quiet easily controlled with a smartphone.

Official sales figures for the German market do not exist. However, according to a projection of the German air navigation service provider (DFS) in 2016, about 400,000 drones will be sold in Germany.

A representative survey by the polling institute YouGov shows that people in Germany see the use of drones with mixed feelings.

Fundamentally, people see the usage of drones operating in certain areas for meaningful. People welcome the use of drones particularly in disaster relief, for the maintenance of technical facilities, for agriculture purposes and for monitoring safety, as well as in the public domain or in major industrial and infrastructure facilities.

People advocate the usage of civilian drones especially in applications that are far away from their own everyday lives.

Due to the increasing number of drones held in public, commercial and private hands, people are not only able to see possible opportunities, but also possible problems. Additionally, the survey institute made estimations on popular opinion that is presented on the following page.

Possible problems

Particularly high amoung citizens, 84 percent of respondents, fear that civilian drones can and will interfere with their privacy. Another huge concern is about the safety of drone operation. Additionally, 77 percent of those polled believe it is likely that drones are used for criminal acts such as smuggling and targeted terrorist attacks. And 76 percent see a threat of property damage and personal injury due to collisions or crashes of civilian drones.

Citizens see a challenge especially in view of the threat to civilian air transport by drones; with 60 percent of people thinking that drones in German airspace may pose a safety risk to passenger and cargo aircraft; however, 31 percent see this as rather unlikey. This has an effect on the acceptance of civil drones; 61 percent of those people who see a possible threat from drones on flight operations, reject the usage of unmaned aircraft systems.

The state’s need to act

The Federal Government and the European Commission are working on new rules for the operation of civilian drones. Thus they are right: with 77 percent of citizens wanting that the State take additional measures to protect civil air transport against drones. Under the umbrella of the BDL (German Aviation Association), airports, airlines and the German air navigation service provider have formulated requirements on how drones are to be safely operated, so that other participants in air transport are not threatened. 2,021 people attended the YouGov survey given between 13th and 15th July 2016. The detailed results can be found here (German).

Citizens were also consulted concerning some of the positions taken by the BDL. A large majority of people in Germany agree with the following proposals:

2,021 people attended the YouGov survey given between 13th and 15th July 2016. The detailed results can be found here.