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Expert Interview Series: Tim Dickinson of TechFruit On Innovative Technologies vs. the Laws That Govern Them

Innovative technologies
Tim Dickinson is the editor of TechFruit and the founder of a number of digital startups over the past decade. He currently runs news and publishing group Descrier. Tim recently sat down with us to discuss today’s emerging technologies (including drones) and the laws and regulations which impact them.

Tell us a bit about your background. How did you become a technology writer?

I am part of the generation that grew up alongside the emergence of the internet and was at university during the birth of Facebook. My focus narrowed at university and I gained a post-graduate degree focused on intellectual property law, so I spent a lot of time looking at how the internet has upended all sectors of business. I started writing about these changes as a hobby, and that evolved into part of my job.

What’s the current landscape in the technology space with regard to the companies themselves?

Startups are still developing at a pace in the wider technology sector. But the focus has changed in the last 12 months from people trying to create or fund billion-dollar fast-growth “unicorns” to people looking towards resilient businesses that can survive the ups and downs of the modern world – businesses described as “cockroaches” by the tech press.

Name an area of technology that is exploding right now but isn’t being noticed much by the general public.

The internet of things (IoT) has exploded in the last couple of years, with many people now having connected devices in their home and/or office. And yet somehow, most people do not know what IoT is or how it will affect our day-to-day lives over the next decade.

What areas of technology are progressing at a rate faster than the pace of laws and regulations pertaining to it?

All technology is evolving faster than the law at the moment, with most regulations a long way behind the curve. Here in the UK, the poor understanding of technology by our MPs has resulted in dreadfully drafted laws that have far too much influence from lobbyists. You can look at the draconian measures introduced into copyright laws and the recent Snooper’s Charter for examples of how uneducated MPs are about digital privacy and related rights.

What are the hottest emerging applications for drone technology nowadays?

Drones offer more than just a way for people to capture selfies from the sky. They can also be used to help farmers with aerial crop surveys, help police monitor situations on the ground or follow suspects from the air, or help retailers deliver parcels. However, the most interesting application I’ve seen them used for recently is by scientists looking to monitor air quality or the makeup of the ozone layer.

Is there any source of resistance to drones that is impacting the pace of their technological development?

Laws still prevent drones being flown in many cities across the globe due to fears about public safety and privacy violations. Until drone manufacturers, drone users, and governments can agree on how and when drones can be used, we won’t see drones used for a vast number of applications.

For companies that are using drones, what steps than can they take to protect themselves against financial liability?

The easiest way for companies to reduce liability would be to make sure they know the laws governing flying drones in their location. If they are breaking the law to fly a drone, they will be on the hook for greater liability no matter what the underlying issue is.

Where do you see the drone industry in the next five to ten years?

We are going to see a regulatory framework developed to allow individuals and businesses to use drones safely and without the risk of massive financial liability. In terms of technology, improved battery technology is going to bring the greatest impact, with flight times tripling or more. More time in the air will mean new applications for drones that no one has dreamt up yet.

For more information on emerging drone applications and technology, check out our blog today!

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