UK Law Commission New project to examine the legal implications of increased autonomy in aviation
The Law Commission will launch a new project to review the law around autonomous flight, in order to support the safe development of rapidly advancing technology.
The two-year review is sponsored by the Future Flight Challenge at UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Department for Transport (DfT). It will examine the existing legal framework to identify the challenges and opportunities linked to the introduction of highly automated systems into the aviation sector.
Automation is already heavily used in aviation today, but recent breakthroughs have seen the development of new, innovative autonomous and highly automated systems and vehicles. These include drones, as well as advanced air mobility vehicles, such as electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which can provide short journeys for a small number of people.
Increased automation has the potential to deliver substantial benefits to the entire aviation system, UK industry, and the public. To realise these benefits, the UK’s legislative and regulatory framework needs to be sufficiently agile to facilitate innovation, whilst robust enough to maintain the high safety standards that aviation enjoys.
The project will review existing legislation to identify any legislative blocks, gaps or uncertainties. The Commission will consult with key stakeholders in the aviation and innovation sectors, before proposing a series of law reforms that will ensure the UK is ready to take advantage of oncoming advances in automation.
The project outcomes will inform the work of the CAA’s innovation hub that was set up in 2019 in response to a significant increase in innovation serving the aviation sector. The hub is playing a crucial role in getting the UK ready for the future of aviation and enabling innovations to take to the skies as soon as it is safe, secure and sustainable for them to do so.
The work is funded through the CAA’s partnership with UKRI to deliver regulatory support to the Future Flight Challenge and will be managed by CAA international, the CAA’s technical cooperation, consulting and aviation training arm.
The project is expected to start in September 2022.