The UK's long-awaited Drones Bill will be out for public consultation "this summer" - though sources tell The Register that it has been stripped down in order to guarantee a smooth passage through Parliament.
The summer pledge, while not new, came from a Department for Transport delegate during a panel session at this week's TechUK Drone Futures conference.
While promised by government since last year, the bill has been noticeably absent from Parliamentary schedules – perhaps because of the ongoing Brexit kerfuffles that are tying up the Lords and Commons.
A source familiar with the Drone Bill, who spoke to The Register on condition of anonymity, expressed doubts about whether it will make it to Parliament in its originally intended form, pointing out that since the main meat of it has been filleted and turned into amendments to the Air Navigation Order, long-expected EU rules are "likely to supersede it" even if it becomes law.
We understand that industry bodies expect the bill to be skeletal, in policy terms, with the precise details filled in at a later date by secondary legislation and binding guidance from regulators.
Consultancy firm PwC's Elaine Whyte also appeared at the conference to defend the company's recent drone report, which implausibly reckoned that a very widely drawn "drones" sector would be worth £43bn to the British economy by 2030.
When The Register questioned Whyte about whether this figure was believable, she said: "I was surprised because it is very sizeable. But I'm very cautious to say that [£42bn] is not necessarily additive to the baseline of GDP. It's not necessarily limited to the drones themselves but how you analyse the data that comes out, the data analytics, AI." ®
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