Law Commission consultation on aviation autonomy

Closes 28 Jun 2024

Criminal liability

Consultation Question 52: We provisionally consider that the current approach in the Air Navigation Order 2016 placing criminal liability on an operator is adequate for autonomous operations. Do you agree?
Consultation Question 53: We provisionally consider that the “reasonable care” defence in article 265(3) of the Air Navigation Order 2016 applies adequately for “direct contraventions” under Article 265(5) to (8) involving autonomous operations. Do you agree?
Consultation Question 54: We seek views on whether for autonomous operations the reasonable care defence should be applicable to the vicarious liability created in article 265(1) of the ANO.
Consultation Question 55: We provisionally propose that a remote pilot of an uncrewed aircraft operating in the certified category should be treated as a pilot-in-command for the purposes of criminal liability pursuant to article 265(1) of the Air Navigation Order 2016. Do you agree?
Consultation Question 56: We ask for consultees’ views on the criminal liability of pilots (or remote pilots) when an aircraft operating autonomously returns control to the pilot or vice-versa. In particular, should a pilot (or remote pilot) only become criminally liable for the piloting of the aircraft at the end of a transition period?
Consultation Question 57: We provisionally propose that the pilot-in-command of aircraft in a multiple simultaneous operation should be criminally liable for breach of operating requirements in the same way as a pilot in command of a single aircraft would be. Do you agree?
Consultation Question 58: We invite consultees’ views on whether the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 operates satisfactorily in the case of highly automated and autonomous flight.
Consultation Question 59: We invite views on how operator responsibilities for dangerous goods might need to be adapted in light of autonomous operations.
Consultation Question 60: We ask for consultees’ views about whether the offence of hijacking in domestic law should be updated to:

1. include the unauthorised seizure or control of autonomous or remotely piloted aircraft by technological means or by persons not on board the aircraft; and

2. expand the period in which hijacking can occur from the period when an autonomous or remotely piloted aircraft is “in flight” to the period when it is “in service”.  

Consultation Question 61: We also ask consultees for views on whether any offences against the aircraft other than hijacking need to be updated to account for increased autonomy in aviation.