Consumers call for new restrictions and licences on drone use amid safety and privacy fears

31st January 2018

Brits also want a new body to be set up to better register and regulate the use of drones in the public domain

Wednesday 31st January 2018 – Oxford, UK: Research by Nominet finds that the vast majority of consumers (92%) think there should be restrictions on who can use a drone, and nearly three-quarters (72%) support the equivalent of a driving licence for drone operators. Consumers are also calling for greater regulation, with 90% saying they want drones to be registered with a central body.

The research, released today at Nominet’s Vibrant Digital Future Summit, aims to identify consumer sentiment around drone ownership, while also exploring trends among drone owners.

Ownership & registration

More-than two-thirds (65%) think people under the age of 18 shouldn’t be able to buy a drone. The public also want restrictions on people with criminal records (61%), those who have a poor track record of drone ownership (54%), citizens with poor eyesight (42%) and residents who live in built-up areas (29%).

Some consumers (17%) went as far as to say that drones shouldn’t be available to the general public at all. Over a third (35%) think potential owners should have to take an exam and have background checks before being able to pilot a drone.

When asked where drones should be registered, 42% of consumers called for a new central body to be set up, while 37% said the government, and 30% believe it should be up to the aviation authorities. A quarter think drones should be registered with the police, while 10% don’t think drones need to be registered at all.

Safety & privacy fears

Much of this worry may be coming from consumer fears over out of control drones, as 83% believe they pose a risk to the public when out of range of their operator’s controller. More than three-quarters (79%) are worried about the threat drones pose to the safety of flightpaths, roads and properties.

More than a quarter of drone owners (26%) don’t know the range of their device, despite knowing the potential dangers. Moreover, more than half of drone owners (53%) admit to crashing their drone, and more than a third (37%) say that they have previously lost a drone.

It’s not just fears about crashes either. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of consumers think drones could be used for criminal activities, while 58% think they could pose a danger to their privacy. Specifically, nearly half of consumers (49%) think drones with camera are a major privacy risk.

Two-thirds of drone owners surveyed say their drone is fitted with a camera, but there is a lack of clarity over filming permissions (66%). One-in-ten drone owners don’t think they ever need permission to film somewhere or someone (9%), while almost two thirds admit to filming a person or place without permission (62%).

The couriers of the future

Consumers are also wary about how drones could be used for commercial purposes. Over half (60%) say they have concerns about delivery drones and wouldn’t be happy using them. The reasons given include a lack of trust that drones would deliver goods safely (36%), the potential for deliveries to be stolen (27%), the opinion that drones are dangerous and could damage property or injure somebody (25%), and a lack of willingness to allow companies to collect image data about properties.

Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet says: “At the moment, drones are largely extravagant toys, but the reality is that they have the potential to revolutionise many aspects of our lives. For example, they could speed up deliveries and provide the emergency services with a fast way to check the safety of a situation remotely. The speed and versatility of drones means they can be deployed with ease, and many are small enough to be unobtrusive.

Haworth continues: “What’s needed is a centralised database and flight path mapping tools that allows these drones to communicate with each other. That way, accidents are less likely to happen, as collision avoidance systems would take over in the event of an emergency. City infrastructure would also need updating to accommodate drones, including things like landing locations for drone deliveries. No doubt as cities become smarter, drones will play a wider role.”

The research forms part of Nominet’s Digital Futures Index, a project that seeks to encourage debate on what matters most, as we chart a course towards a vibrant digital future in the UK. Nominet’s position as the company behind the .UK internet infrastructure means it can offer a unique perspective on the digital progress of the UK. Nominet is working with experts from academia, business, government and education to identify the key factors that will determine the nation’s success in building a digital future. The plan is for the Digital Futures Index to be updated annually to track progress.

The Vibrant Digital Future Summit marks Nominet’s commitment to driving the nation forward digitally. It will invite business leaders, tech innovators and government officials to discuss the UK’s status as a tech leader, and how we risk damaging a potentially prosperous future if we don’t act on our impending digital skills gap.


For more information please contact Tom Knock at Brands2Life on [email protected].

 About the research

Nominet commissioned Opinium to survey a representative sample of 2,002 UK adults, and 500 drone owners, between 19th-29th January 2018.

About Nominet

Nominet is driven by a commitment to use technology to improve connectivity, security and inclusivity online.  For 20 years, Nominet has run the .UK internet infrastructure, developing an expertise in the Domain Name System (DNS) that now underpins sophisticated network analytics used by governments and enterprises to mitigate cyber threats.  The company provides registry services for top level domains, and is exploring applications for a range of emerging technologies. A profit with a purpose company, Nominet supports initiatives that contribute to a vibrant digital future.