Colombia Shows How Not To Regulate Drones
from the pedestrian-waving-a-red-flag dept
As a growing number of Techdirt posts on the subject indicate, drones are fast entering the mainstream. But as they become more common, and as more mishaps involving them inevitably occur, so the calls for government regulation grow louder. Fortunately for the rest of us, Colombia has stepped forward to show us some of the things not to do, as a post on PetaPixel makes clear. The new drone regulations are written in Spanish, not unreasonably, but Pablo Castro has put together a useful summary, singling out four key aspects that give a feel for the general approach.
The first is that drone operators are required to take a training course. Fair enough, you might think, but there are couple of problems with the idea:
[the course] must be taken at an aeronautics school authorised by the Aeronáutica Civil, and to date none has been authorised to teach such courses.
Also, should they be authorised, several of these schools have confirmed these courses will cost at least $5,000 USD. Oh, and by law they must be renewed every six months.
Then, of course there’s the mandatory insurance. Again, that would be a reasonable requirement were it not for the following:
no Colombian insurance company offers such coverage for drones at the time of writing this article.
Point three is more subtle:
we must not fly within a 5km radius of any airport. However, we must make sure we establish radio communication with the nearest airport control tower before and during every flight.
Yes, that?s correct: all drone operators must own radios with ranges upwards of 5km and capable of the frequencies airports use, the cheapest of which cost more than a DJI Phantom and require a license to operate legally.
The final aspect is that not only must drone operators submit flights plans to the relevant authorities 15 days before they carry them out, but they must also justify why the job can’t be done by conventional aircraft. As Castro remarks:
This last point contains an obvious hint as to why the Aeronáutica Civil has taken such a drastic stance on drones. It turns out this entity is tightly connected to the handful of aviation companies that used to make thousands of dollars on every flight involving aerial photography, videography, and the like, but with the widespread use of drones, their precious cash cow is dying. So unsurprisingly, corruption is the real motivation behind this new law, not the safety of our citizens.
And if corruption is not an issue, lobbying most certainly will be. As drones become more common and more capable, we can doubtless expect to hear calls for regulations restricting them in various ways. The justification may be “safety” or “national security”, but in many cases, the real reason will be the fears of the traditional aviation companies that they are about to be replaced by much-cheaper drone-based services.