Looking to hire a drone service provider? If you’re in the United Kingdom, the government has released an actual list of companies that are authorized to legally fly for commercial purposes.
The list outlines Civil Aviation Authority-approved commercial operators of drones, which it defines as unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 20 kg (that’s 44 lbs). As of May 25, there are 4,141 businesses on the list, and the database clearly states when licenses were issued and when they expire.
“One of the biggest challenges facing the drone industry today is how to distinguish between professional service providers and the DIY aviator who just purchased their first drone,” Harrison Wolf, drone project lead for the World Economic Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “This initiative from the UK will make it much easier for businesses to know they have hired a qualified experienced professional for the job. ”
That’s in contrast to the system in the U.S., where there is no official list of authorized drone service providers. However, in the U.S. it IS possible to search the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 Certified Remote Pilot database, which is free online. That list is important for people to check whether the drone pilot they have hired actually has a license from the FAA.
The UK’s database by the CAA simply makes it easier for entities to find a drone pilot — a yellow pages of sorts.
“Previously, companies required extensive help from outside consultants just to create the frameworks for picking the drone pilots and service companies to which meet their needs,” Wolf said. “Now they can do it themselves.”
Industries leaders are applauding the move as proof that the UK government is forging ahead with adopting drone technology into its policies.
The UK has a history of being drone-friendly. Amazon has experimented with drone delivery in rural towns on the outskirts of London. At the end of 2016, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted a video of a book delivery via Amazon drone.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 14, 2016
The tech giant had originally promised to do its testing in the U.S., but because it took too long for the U.S.’s FAA to grant permission, moved their drone testing operation abroad.
“This move by the UK shows it is trying to meet the needs of the industry while protecting the safety standards of society,” Wolf said. “Many civil aviation authorities could catalyze industry growth, promote best practices and provide incentive for drone operators to turn pro, simply by following in the footsteps of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.”