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MWC 2015: Death by drone ‘only a matter of time’

A senior figure at the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineering (IEEE) has claimed that it is only a matter of time before the use of drones ends up killing someone.

Kevin Curran, who also lectures Computer Science at the University of Ulster alongside his role at the IEEE, made the comments during Mobile World Congress, currently taking place in Barcelona.

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As reported by the Inquirer, Mr Curran believes that as more and more drones are placed into the hands of everyday consumers, accidents are bound to occur.

"Up until last year, most people flying [drones] were guys who were used to flying planes, but when something powerful becomes cheap, and it hits the consumer market, you get all sorts of idiots using it," he explained. "People are just flying drones wherever they can and it is only a matter of time before we see a death in the UK from a drone."

In particular, Curran highlighted the risk of a drone hitting a building and then plummeting to the ground. The FAA recently proposed a 55-pound weight limit for commercial drones, but even if this becomes law, a drone towards the upper end of this range could still cause individuals and property serious damage.

"Once drones hit a solid item [without propeller guards up] they fall from the sky; that's all they can do,” Curran added, “And I guarantee that there'll be a lot of accidents in the next 12 months and I'm pretty sure we'll see a death.”

Some drones do have built-in safety precautions like automatically deployed parachutes already in place, but Curran would like to see this practice extended to all commercially available drones.

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The need for greater safety regulations surrounding the use of drones was recognised last month, when the FAA issued a number of potential new rules. As well as the weight restriction, drones would be limited to speeds of 100mph or less and could not exceed altitudes of 500 feet.