A Basic Guide To Drones: What You Should Know

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DronesDrones are used by small children for fun and by industries for hundreds of commercial purposes while terrorists used to spy borders. The Drone and UAV technology is still young, if my imagination is not too much I believe drones will evolve similarly to cell phones. Before you begin with Drones, be sure to read up on the following points.

Is your security at risk?

Overall, while the Drone technology is advancing, the technology to arm against them is also developing fast. As much as scientists, media, farmers and rescue missions can use Drones to make the world a better place, the same technology can also be used to drop bombs by terrorists. Nowadays governments and high security entities have to use “Security netting “to help detect and prevent drones from entering the establishment. Even the technology of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) is a revolutionized invention and at the same time a security risk.

Drones
Image taken from Merdeka-Online

There are systems that have been developed to listen to the unique sound signatures of a drone and can trigger an alert.

There are new companies forming up to protect the world from Drones. One example is DroneShield. DroneShield helps security forces to identify unauthorized drones using real-time alerts and digital evidence collection. An enterprise-grade sensor network with their patent-pending acoustic detection technology can sense drones that are invisible to radar or that lack radio-frequency links.

What are the safety with regard to Drones?

If stray birds have been known to cause commercial airplane misshape on some airport runaways, can you imagine what can happen when a drone hits a commercial aircraft on runaway while landing or take off? Thus far, no such clear rules have been developed in Sri Lanka or other countries about interfering with commercial planes and choppers while up on the air.

According to FAA (Federal Aviation Authority), more than 750 Aircraft pilots have reported seeing unmanned aircrafts as of December 2015, Compared to a total 238 such sightings for all of 2014.

Drones: A Threat to privacy?

Using Drones can pose serious threats to people’s privacy and civil rights. It can be used to infringe on people’s civil liberties and privacy.  Drones available in the market nowadays generate a sound while flying. The problem will arise when people invent super silent drones. At that point, our privacy is at its highest risk. So the technology is developing super-fast , but as users of such technology, we must always be responsible for what we are doing with it.

DronesAs of late 2016, a majority of states had introduced legislation to protect individuals from drone related privacy invasion. Upon reading up on privacy and insurance, I discovered that most experts in the US noted that any damage caused by a drone falling on your house can be covered under slandered homeowner’s insurance policy and any damage to your car can be covered with your comprehensive car insurance in the United States. But in Sri Lanka I believe that the insurance companies have not yet even thought about this.

Rules and Regulations

The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka has been established a set of rules and regulations recently. While they want to improve and develop the technology in Sri Lanka they are more concerned about safety and security, Because CAA is the only government body which is responsible for pilotless aircraft operation in Sri Lanka.

You can find the 12 page complete rules and regulation guide from the CAA official web site. CAA has grouped pilotless aircrafts for 4 categories based on Mass.

Mass Category of Pilotless aircraft
25 kg or aboveA
Above 1 kg but below 25 kgB
Above 200 g but at or below 1 kgC
200 g or belowD

25KG or above (Category – A)

A Drone which weighs more than 25KG must be an Industrial drone, or a pilotless aircraft which is operated only for military operations. Industrial drones are rarely used in Sri Lanka and as per my understanding no professional service providers provide any kind of industrial drone service in Sri Lanka. To fly any kind of unmanned aerial vehicle more than 25KG you must obtain necessary approvals for flight and you must be a certified pilot.

CAA Defined Limitations on Operations

A pilotless aircraft of Category A shall not be operated unless:

  • Explicit approval from Director General of Civil Aviation has been obtained
  • The published requirements on Personnel Licensing, Aircraft Operations and Airworthiness applicable to manned aircraft are fully complied with.

Above 1KG but below 25KG (Category – B)

This is the main category most professional drones are fall in. Older version of DJI Products fall in to this category. Make sure you obtain necessary approvals from CAA if your drone is below 25 KG but above 1 KG.

CAA Defined Limitations on Operations

A pilotless aircraft of Category B, subject to compliance with the applicable requirements in this Implementing Standards, may be:

(i) designed, constructed or maintained under the authority of Director General of Civil Aviation, an approved person or approved organization; and,

(ii) Operated under the authority of the Director General of Civil Aviation, an approved person or approved organization.

Above 200g but at or below 1KG (Category – C)

The new generation of Drones are less than 1KG, Including the Latest DJI Mavic Pro. But if you are using any camera or any data capturing tool with your Drone you need special approval. In addition to that if you are flying for commercial purposes it Is a must to obtain necessary approvals.

CAA Defined Limitations on Operations

A pilotless aircraft of Category C, is defined as a drone that:

  • Has no capability for data capturing tools such as camera, body-sensing or self-priming devices
  • Has a potential of posing a safety or security threat to a person or property or infringing privacy of a third person
  • Has no means of carrying foreign objects other than the apparatus needed for its operations

Such drones may be operated with the Registration of a vendor who is certified for the purpose by the Director General of Civil Aviation, subject to compliance with guidelines to be provided by such vendor.

200g or below (Category – D)

This is the only category that you can operate without obtaining licenses and prior approval from any institute. But you will have to maintain maximum altitude of 150 Feet. A good example of this are the Parrot Drones as these are lightweight. So if you need a good drone less than 200g, the Parrot drone would be an option.

CAA Defined Limitations on Operations

A pilotless aircraft of Category D can be operated below 150 ft from Ground Level without approval from the Director General of Civil Aviation. But only if it is operated for leisure or education purposes at a private premise. And that’s with the consent of the property owner or at public places which are clearly identified for the purpose. Of course the use of such drones requires you take due regard to safety and security of persons and property whilst respecting the rights of privacy of others.

Can I become a Drone Pilot?

Yes, you can. It can be done either the easy way or the hard way. The easy way would be to go on Amazon or walk in to a store and simply purchase a drone. Once you get it, read the manual and try flying the drone by yourself. This may probably result in you breaking some propellers. But there are some extras propellers which you can replace the broken ones with.

Drones

The hard way would be to study and research, understand your requirement. Afterwards, decide which model to buy, and what extra features you want to add such as Camera, GPS. If you’re using it for professional use, the features are optional and you can upgrade your drone as and when needed without buying everything at once.

Since we are focusing on Sri Lanka, Civil Aviation Authority has defined the status of the person who operates a pilotless aircraft. A pilotless aircraft shall not be operated by any person if the person;

  • Has no familiarity familiar with operations and maneuvering of the aircraft safely.
  • Is not in good physical and mental health condition;
  • Is under the influence of alcohol or psychoactive substance;
  • Does not have sound sense of social responsibility

If you are complying with the above points, you are eligible in terms, but you will have to do lot of study before you become a pilot. The first step to become a drone pilot is not to buy a drone, but study and research to understand the latest technology. Only then you will be able to gain the most from your investment. So take time to study and understand first before go ahead and by that drone.

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