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N Touch
Saturday 24 March 2018

Clampdown on drones

THE STATE is moving to strictly regulate the use of drones — unmanned aircraft guided remotely, such quadcopters used in aerial photography — by introducing legal regulations that would make the devices illegal in the absence of registration certificates obtained from aviation authorities.

Ramesh Lutchmedial, the Director General of Civil Aviation at the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority, will tomorrow meet with Ian Macintyre, the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, at the Ministry of the Attorney General, Cabildo Chambers, Port-of-Spain, to push forward the process of introducing a regime of regulation for the devices.

Draft regulations prepared by the aviation regulator were submitted to the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel a month ago for review. When finalised and approved, the regulations will have to be approved by the Legislative Review Committee of the Cabinet and then the Cabinet before coming into force through publication in the Gazette.

Lutchmedial on Friday spoke with Sunday Newsday about the draft regulations which will require all owners of these devices to register their craft. “There is a proliferation of drones, such as the ‘copters’ used for aerial photography,” he said. “In other countries the use of these devices is regulated. We are preparing a set of regulations. All drones will have to be registered and conditions will be attached for their use in order to ensure they do not pose a safety hazard to persons on the ground and to aircraft.

If not registered it will be illegal to operate one of these devices. Every drone will require a certificate of registration and an identifying number.” Lutchmedial continued, “the rules are currently being reviewed by the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and we will be meeting (tomorrow) to discuss them.” He noted an informal scheme of registration is in place at the Civil Aviation Authority.

In April, the National Operations Centre expressed concern over the increased use of drones, also called unmanned aerial systems, by private owners.

“The use and capability of these drones are of very serious concern to all countries,” the NOC said in a media release.

It said a committee was formed to examine the matter and short-term measures would be put in place to regulate.

Drone use has increased markedly over the last few years.

The devices are commonly seen at fetes and Carnival events and at parks and recreation spaces. They are employed for recreational and professional use alike, with photographers and videographers deploying them.

Two persons attending a fete at San Fernando sustained serious head injuries in January 2014 when a drone fell on them. Outside of private use, the State has also increased its use of the devices. For instance the devices have reportedly been used by Ministry of Land and Marine Resources in mapping activities relating to squatting.

The move to bring regulations to govern the use of drones comes after the State has introduced new rules to govern State aircraft.

In July, the Civil Aviation Regulations 2015 came into effect, introducing a special scheme of regulation for aircraft owned by the State or a civilian registered aircraft, used in military, customs of police service.

“These rules are intended to govern the operation of State aircraft,” Lutchmedial, who signed off on the new regulations in June, said.

“For example, currently State aircraft fall under a civil registry and certain rules are enforced, such as a ban on armed personnel. These new rules will authorise State aircraft to carry armed personnel.” Minister of Transport Stephen Cadiz – whose portfolio does not include all civil aviation matters, but includes some areas which touch upon transport safety – yesterday said drones pose a threat to aircraft and commuters and also pose specific challenges in terms of regulation. “The Government is very much aware of the drone issue and the danger drones pose when it comes to aircraft,” the minister said. “It is something that requires regulation: the height that drones can fly, for instance. You have hobby drones and then drones that can achieve high altitude. It is something the Government will have to find a way to regulate, but it is difficult to regulate in the sense that these are devices operated by individuals, they can be operated from your house. People don’t understand how dangerous it is. You can bring an aircraft down. And there is a public education component in that.”


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