Imagine I flew a drone over Kampala, apart from the staring eyes of city dwellers who would most probably think it’s a government operation, and police themselves wondering what the hell is taking place, no one will know what am up to. (or so I think) Drones in Uganda are not a new thing infant the film industry has adopted their use to give us those great aerial view shots we see in Ugandan music videos. But, since they are flying in Uganda’s airspace, some regulation has to occur to avoid future menace and misuse like it is in the developing world.
The current civil aviation rules for air and traffic control under the Statutory Instruments 2006 No. 58 are almost a decade old and will need to be amended to provide regulation for this new breed of air crafts. Apart from commercial airplanes, the current law regulates other things like unnamed free balloons, balloons, Kites, airships and parascending parachutes. Expect a mish-mash of rules governing both commercial air crafts and balloons to apply to drones as well.
New rules and regulations have to be put in place that would govern the use of drones in Uganda. The rules should encompass drones for commercial use like delivery and entertainment industry, military drones and drones for home use. These are eight out of the many possible areas CAA can tackle to regulate drone usage in Uganda assuming they are not jammed or banned.
Certify commercial operators
This will probably be one of the biggest challenge that the CAA will face, a way to identify the different kinds of drones. These are air crafts that can be assembled by any one with the right instruction manual. So one can import in part by part and assemble it at home.
A private company should be mandated to pass an “aeronautical knowledge” test at a CAA facility, obtain a certification license rated for flying small unmanned air crafts, and renew that test every few years. It’s likely that most small consumer drones should not need extensive testing or certification to operate.
A flying drone is an eye magnet for kids and I believe that since drones will not only be limited to commercial use, expect some kids whose parents are well off to get them drones as birthday presents. The CAA proposal should add an age limits of 18.
Distance from Ground and Water
The current rules provide for helicopters to have a limitation of 1,000 metres from above the ground in congested areas of a city. Current regulations provide for medium or heavy unmanned free balloons not to be released in a way that may cause it to fly lower than 300 meters over the congested area of cities, towns, or settlements or an open air assembly of persons not associated with the operation. Safe drone distance from ground should also be specified.
Provide for National Security
Expect a whole lot of drone misuse which could potentially threaten national security. Only drones designated for military purposes should be equipped for such purposes. Strong penalties must be imposed on drones that will be disguised otherwise.
Delivery drones will be expected to carry more weight than drones to be used at home, and to minimize harzards, CAA has to classify these drones according to their weight categories. Imagine ordering your meal online on HelloFood or your goods on Kaymu and they are instantly delivered to you with a drone. Of course this wont be any time soon, but it should be planned for in our regulations. Current rules for unnamed balloons provide for light, media and heavy payloads with weights ranging from 2 – 6Kgs.
Operate at line of sight
For noncommercial drones, rules should be put in place to allow users to operate only within line of sight. This means that the user should be able to see the drone in air all the time. Although non -line of sight technology is being used safely in Europe today, such technology should be limited for specific drone categories like delivery and military drones. Line of Sight operation will ensure that users are in control of their drones so as not to cause harm to others.
Specify Operating frequency and power
CAA should make sure that all registered drones will present an echo to surface radar operating in the 200MHz to 2700MHz frequency range or equipped with other devices that shall permit the authority to track them. This means they will have to work hand in hand with the Uganda Communications Commission to designate or ensure that all drones follow the ITU spectrum recommendations. Although this will pose a challenge for drones being operated in the unlicensed ISM bands, the same frequency used in WiFi technology (2.4GHz). When it comes to power it should be noted that the maximum power of ISM Bands allowed for civilian drone is 36 dBm.
Carry out random Inspection
The new rules should give room for random inspection, they should emphasize that people should not be allowed to fly more than one drone at a time, and operators must provide their drone to the CAA for inspection upon request.
If you have more proposals for the Civil Aviation Authority in regards to drone regulation, please leave a comment below.