Aviation autonomy

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations


Consultation Paper

Summary of Consultation

Summary of Consultation (Cymraeg)


Overview (Cymraeg)


The Law Commission has been asked by the Civil Aviation Authority (“CAA”) and Department for Transport (“DfT”) to review the law around autonomous flight, in order to support the safe development of rapidly advancing technology.

The three-year review is partly funded by UK Research & Innovation (“UKRI”) through the Future Flight Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council. 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.

Summary of the project

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 vertical take-off and landing (“VTOL”) 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 reviews 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.

Next steps

We published our first consultation paper, on autonomy in relation to VTOLs and drones, on 26 February 2024. The consultation closes on 28 June 2024.

To respond to the consultation, please use our online form available here https://consult.justice.gov.uk/law-commission/aviation-autonomy. A Word response form is also available on request, by emailing aviationautonomy@lawcommission.gov.uk

We expect to publish a second consultation paper in late 2024, followed by a final report in 2025.


Please email aviationautonomy@lawcommission.gov.uk for any queries

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Public law


Nicholas Paines KC