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31 Aug A growing need for drone regulation

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The use of unmanned aerial vehicle systems, or drones, is growing rapidly around the world. Busy skies and big cities inevitably create congestion, and more drones only exacerbate the issue. Without sufficient regulations from national CAAs, it could be an accident waiting to happen.

The soaring popularity of drones

Enthusiasm for drones is expanding at an incredible pace for both recreation and business. It is a sector that is developing very fast, and expected to increase business efficiency and economic growth.

In France, for example, drone businesses are booming as thousands of farmers, miners, energy companies, and others use drones for aerial monitoring.

Professional drone pilots are in high demand at companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. Chinese drone manufacturer DJI opened a 15.000-square-foot arena in Seoul where pilots can hone their skills.

REGULATION IS UNAVOIDABLE

For business, drones provide efficient and cost-effective solutions to inspection and monitoring, aerial photography, package delivery and more. The worldwide commercial market potential is expected to be worth billions, with massive growth within the next decade.

The market needs drone aviation safety sooner rather than later.

The tight airspace of densely-populated urban areas like here in Singapore can easily become congested. Concerns are rising about safety and privacy, not to mention aviation authorities’ ability to enforcement them.

Drones colliding, or crashing into buildings, bridges and public utility facilities is a serious public safety risk. Some type of formal regulation is unavoidable.

Much of the current worldwide regulation is fragmented and barely goes beyond registration requirements and restrictions for shared airspace. Countries with limited airspace have already developed specific restrictions for the use of drones. Unfortunately, these will not be enough to handle the deluge of drones in the next few years.

DRONE TRAFFIC CONTROL?

Smart regulations can help safely integrate drones into a nation’s airspace. Civil aviation authorities will need to examine the national demand and assess the available airspace. Registering drones by type and use will contribute to that assessment. They can then compare best practices and engage all stakeholders to help develop future solution options and relevant regulations.

The European Aviation Safety Authority, for example, is currently working on a prototype framework for low, medium and high-risk drone operation.

Recreational use naturally poses little risk if far enough away from restricted or dangerous areas. The greater need to mitigate aviation safety risks is with the heavier and faster drones for professional use, and on the types of activities they are used for. Assessments of public safety risk and airworthiness under specific conditions, such as public events, become critical factors.

The need for organised “drone traffic control” may still be some way off, but the growing market is creating a need for authorities to oversee drone aviation safety sooner rather than later.

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. For more information, please refer to www.to70.com

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Michael Portier
Michael Portier
Michael Portier has almost 20 years of experience in air traffic management and related areas. Many of his projects cover the areas of concept developments, fast-time and real-time simulations and policy development. As European Project Coordinator for an EU funded project supervised by SESAR JU, he has successfully delivered results as building blocks for the SESAR programme. With his European-based expertise and Asian roots, he is now working in Singapore to better serve the Asian clients.
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