Law and technology for the drone industry

In recent years, globally, and also in Poland, we can observe a huge growth in the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles  (UAVs or drones) and an increasing interest of individuals and companies willing to use them for their business or private use.

Drones are the future and can be beneficial to all kinds of sectors (energy, military, advertising and media). Yet they present a great danger when operated without a broad knowledge of flight rules and airspace structures.

Many of these are been bought for private or recreational use by users who have never had any experience of flight operations on aerial systems and no aviation background.

Experts indicate that increase of UAVs is starting to affect airport operations and air traffic management institutions are worried about increasing numbers of reports of near-misses with commercial airplanes.

They report that, as they are observing the increase of number of drones, they also observe a corresponding rise in the number of incidents involving the unsafe and irresponsible use of drones.

There is a huge debate word-wide how to reduce unsafe use of drones  and improve public safety without stopping the development of this promising sector.

For instance, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has required all drone operators to be registered in a governmental register in order to impose some responsibility on this sector. Many countries are following  FAA’s example. The objective is to make it easier to identify the wrongdoer  in case of a near-miss with any plane or unsafe use in the proximity of group of people.

In Poland, to raise people’s awareness, the former president of ULC, the Polish civil aviation authority Piotr Ołowski, has started the campaign latajzglowa (‘fly with sense’) to promote the current legislation concerning the use of drones and flight operations. And the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) is active in educating operators. At UAV conferences, PANSA’s representatives try to present ways of reporting of operations in the controlled traffic region (CTR) to obtain conditions for flight operation performance. They inform delegates about the tools provided by PANSA necessary for checking the airspace – maps of zones and AUP – Airspace Used Plan, which shows the occupancy of zones, height and time of occupancy.

The size of the drone is irrelevant for the safety of the aircraft. Some drone operators are not aware of that. They are convinced that their operations are not harmful or detrimental to other users of the airspace. Experts point out, however, that even drones weighing less than 2kg can cause a disaster. Pilots compare the danger of drones to bird strikes and civil aviation experienced unfortunately consequences of birds being ingested into aircraft engines.

The authorities are worried about unsafe and unauthorised incursions into CTRs by UAVs. Companies are competing with each other when it comes to inventing and rolling out new technologies and new solutions for drones operations and to improve their safety as well as their integration with commercial aircrafts in aviation structure.

The DroneRadar application – a solution for airspace structure

DroneRadar is the Polish solution that makes flying drones much safer. Recommended by PANSA, it is a three-tier solution aimed at amateur and professional operators, air traffic control and special services. A unique interface to the system has been designed for each of the above user groups, together with a web application for the general public.

Access to DroneRadar for amateurs is realised through a free smartphone application available for Android and iOS devices. The interface is based on a traffic-light concept. At the click of a button, the user can check airspace availability at their current location. There are three possible outcomes of this query:

GREEN – flight allowed up to 150m above ground level (depending on Flight Information Region regulations)
ORANGE – flight restrictions requiring permission
RED – flights are prohibited (except by airspace owners and authorised UAV operators)

In case of loss of control of a UAV, all versions of the application will be equipped with a ‘panic button’ which will raise the alarm across all the relevant authorities.

In the case of airspace restrictions, the user has the possibility of looking up the airspace owner and their contact data. After checking airspace availability, the user can check-in his operation with a set 30-minute duration, which will be automatically collected. To perform such a check-in, the user has to provide their telephone contact data. After the check-in, the operation will appear as a 500m radius zone notification displayed to all other users of DroneRadar DAMS. This notification expires at the end of the set operation time. The method used allows for near real-time UAV operation monitoring. This application is available free of charge to all UAV operators in Poland since the beginning of December 2015.

Keywords drones, drone industry