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.

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Comments on “Colombia Shows How Not To Regulate Drones”

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Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Reason for regulations...

Regulations are sometimes couched as being required for safety, and the inevitable tradeoff between what you can’t do and someone else’s safety trotted out center stage.

Then sometimes it’s just the government exercising more control because it can. This is an example of the latter — Colombia has effectively made flying drones a violation of several civil regulations. That means if you upset someone you will get fined and the government will be enriched.

No matter how corrupt or inept our government is, I’m happy that the US FAA takes a more laissez faire approach until something becomes an exigent danger. Their process, which includes NPRMs, hearings, etc. is more reasoned than the European or South American or Colombian methods.

Commercial Rotorcraft Pilot

Violynne (profile) says:

Can someone explain to me why this article didn’t end with a “/sarcasm” tag?

$5000 to take a course on how to fly a drone? Has to be renewed every 6 months? What, at another $5000?

This doesn’t even consider the cost of a walkie-talkie. Wait. Do they even make these anymore? To contact a control tower whose sole purpose it is to guide planes to let them know a drone is nearby (well beyond an airport’s concern at 5k) is asking for trouble.

These “laws” are just plain stupid, though I do agree with the training portion of it. ONCE, with a license issued at completion.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:


This is why before legislators are allowed to write laws limiting tech they must first pass a course on the tech they are going to pass laws about (that will cost them $5000 minimum and take 6 months), take an exam to be certified, and renew their certification every 6 months (another $2000 cost to them). Then, every law they propose has to be approved by a panel of experts on the tech in question. Oh, and each type of tech requires a separate certification.

Anonymous Coward says:

Droneys, please read the applicable sections of the FAR/AIM

Regardless of what you fly, there are well established regulations, and this article is poor caricature of the situation.

The question droneys should be asking themselves is: “how is the air space in my area controlled?” And for that I recommend you get the proper sectional, and learn to read it.

Near air-to-airs do happen, much more frequently than is generally known. Most pilots have come much closer to something than intended on at least one or two occasions. So the concern isn’t overblown. It happens. We don’t mind if you fly. But if you aren’t willing to put your ass on the line, you should’t be risking other peoples. It is as simple as that.

So yes, droneys probably should take some ground school.

Gear (user link) says:

Drone it - but ....

Heh – good toys but whit a lot of head pain – not to do this – not to fly there – here is private there is military – so take Your Drone and go to Africa – or Australia – but there is no humans to be seen when thei have steal something or hide …
K – just go here and take Your pharmacy for sport:

albert says:

Colombia is a unique country with unique security issues (drug traffickers, militant groups like FARC and ELN) and it’s no surprise that they would want to maintain firm control over who is using drones and for what purpose. For example, the barrios of Medellin used to be controlled by gangs because from their hillside locations they had superior visibility of all police movements below. It took an invasion by the army, with aerial support, to restore order.

I think the rules are reasonable and ensure that drones are being used for legitimate business purposes.

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