The rise of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and the fall of ethical and safety concerns

May 4, 2016 |  by

In this month Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) have caught the attention of many people around the world. In India few were arrested for using UAS in event photography at Hyderabad. A French tourist was arrested for video shooting the Colosseum in Rome. He might be facing around $100k fine for violating Italian aviation law. In North Carolina a man was arrested for flying the UAS close to the police helicopter whilst it was attending an emergency call in the night. Federal Aviation Administration prohibits drones (recreational) from being flown at night. And a rogue drone (as the media calls it) reportedly hit a BA flight in Heathrow airport. Heathrow airport took the step to put a stop of UAS menace near the airport by installing Anti-Drone system.

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) have been helpful in many sectors like Conservation, Insurance, Emergency, Manufacturing, Education, Construction & Real Estate, Media and Utilities apart from the military usage. In the recent flood which caused havoc in the southern city of Chennai, erstwhile called as Madras, quad-copters with camera were used for the rescue mission. In agriculture UAS with sensors and imaging capabilitiesare giving farmers new insights to increase yields and reduce crop damage.

According to Federal Aviation Administration’s Aerospace forecast it is estimated that the UAS used in America for recreational and commercial will increase three times from 2.5 million to 7 million in 2020. That’s four years from now. With the proliferation of millions of UAS the aviation authorities in many countries require the UAS owners to register before use (The rules differ as per the law of the land)

The Flying menace, but sky is not a limit for the long arm of the law

On the contrary, there had been instances when UAS operators had been a menace byviolating privacy, injuring people, flying over restricted areas like airports andobstructing emergency services.

The affordance of UAS lets people create/modify drones which can throw flame, spray paints and fire a gun. The increase in the potential abuse of this technology is not be taken lightly.  To ensure the enforcement of rogue UAS many countries have taken enforcement steps.

As Legislation lags behind the fast pace technology, the safety and ethical concerns are overlooked whilst designing and using technology.

Is tightening up rules for UAS by the regulatory authorities a killjoy?

No, it is the need of the hour.

With plethora of options available in the market in the form of UAS DIY kits and others, which cost less, compared to the models which have GeoFence and Safe landing features. The first time buyer is more inclined to buy the non safe models, it is either ignorance or may be because it is economical. Last Christmas we had seen the mess with inferior quality hoverboards which caused safety hazard. In this case we are talking about an object which may fall from the sky without any resistance to the ground. Theimpact of the free fall will multitude when it reaches the ground or on someone due to gravity.

DIRECTOR GENERAL OF CIVIL AVIATION  (DGCA)  released a draft policy for the civilian UAS operator, the draft copy is a promising approach  to address issues concerned with the regulations of UAS.

i) Micro : Less than two kg.
ii) Mini : Greater than two kg and less than 20 kg.
iii) Small : Greater than 20 kg and less than 150 kg.
iv) Large : Greater than 150 kg.

DGCA states that all Unmanned Aircraft (UA) should obtain Unique identification number  and the operator to obtain flying permits. Although at this moment  individuals who own UAS could use them in public places only with police permission.


The draft policy also mandates the operators to do the Pre-flight Inspection before launching,and also to ensure valid insurance cover. The insurance not only covers the UAS incase of damage, it will also provide third party liability if something goes wrong just like your automobiles. It is the responsibility of the UAS operator to ensure the safety of others in the area of operation, Maintaining flight log details and up to date insurance is mandatory. The safe landing feature in case of low battery or for other reasons should be a must in all UAS.

Privacy matters, if not Google Glass would have thrived…

There are communities like NoFlyZone which gather data from the people to communicate to the UAS manufacturers. The data enables the manufactures to understand the No-Fly zone and create a Geo-fence in that area to avoid human and drone conflicts. It has to made mandatory for the manufactures to make UAS in conformance to No Fly zones marked in the region of use.

The transition of new technology into the human social environment raises many ethical and legal challenges. The code of ethics which are applicable in the human to humaninteraction is applicable to the technology to Human interaction.  The design should reflect the Ethical, social and legal considerations.

I am a deep-dyed fan of William Hazlitt, yes indeed ‘Rules and models destroy genius and art’. Registering a drone may sound like an draconian drone law for some. But rules are there for a reason; had it not been for rules, many good outcome of geniuses would have gone haywire.