Drone Talk: Integrating Drones into Society

Malaysian Drone Expo (MyDroneX) is a joint effort by Futurise Centre and also Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) focusing on the drone industry with an all-day itinerary for all the stakeholders of the drone industry, be it regulators, dronepreneurs, hobbyists, students and the general public.  One of the programs held was the Drone Talk, where three speakers talk about drone regulations, drones in disaster risk management and also the networks surrounding drone technology as a whole.

The first speaker was Millie Radovic, a market analyst from Drone Industry Index (DRONEII), a company focused on drone market research. One issue that causes problems in the drone market is the laws and regulations of drones in countries, which differ from one another, some don’t even have laws, which could discourage potential investors and companies. A way to deal with this issue is the Drone Readiness Index, created by DRONEII. The Drone Readiness Index is a six-pillar measurement metric that compares national drone legislations and experience which aids users in measuring the suitability of regulation to the efficient use and further development of commercial drones. It is the first of its kind and takes both qualitative and quantitative factors into account, and aims to benefit both drone companies and governments. In simple terms, The Drone Readiness Index measures how prepared a country is in regulating drones.

The Drone Readiness Index is measured by six core pillars to what constitutes a good drone regulation. The first pillar is Applicability, where the country is assessed on whether they address drones in their laws and whether the laws have been revised for the past 24 months. This shows the government’s determination in tackling the hurdles in drone regulations. The second pillar is Human Resources, which measures the efficacy of regulations in streamlining the process of recruitment and training of pilots and other jobs in the drone industry. This includes comparing the number of drone pilots per capita and the infrastructure used in training and certifying pilots in each country. The third pillar is the Airspace Integration, which deals with traffic management. It measures the regulatory efforts by the government at the integration of manned and unmanned airspaces in a country. Fourth pillar is Operational Limitations, where it measures whether, where, and how drones are allowed to operate in the country, per the laws of the country. This pillar also helps to measure whether the country is making towards modern aerial mobility in the future. The fifth pillar is the Administrative Infrastructure, which measures the infrastructure used in the administration and facilitation for the responsible use of commercial drones. Ms Radovic highlighted the importance of e-registration in the drone industry and regulations as it is efficient and relevant in this modern age. The sixth and final pillar is Social Acceptance. Social acceptance is measured by data protection and privacy in drone regulations, which includes outlining the liabilities of the drone owner and such. The Drone Readiness Index is a way to safeguard the drone ecosystem while contributing to the constant development and improvement of the drone industry. Ms Radovic also emphasized on constant dialogue between stakeholders, such as the drone companies and government as a key factor towards the development and improvement of the drone industry.

The next speaker was Mr Eddie Bennet of OMADA, who led the program of Little Ripper, the first drone rescue incident in the world, which saved the lives of two teenagers. In his session, he talks about how drones can be used to save lives – by letting it fly over beaches and dropping floatation devices for water-related victims.

He highlighted three issues that need to be balanced as part of the process in making drones part of disaster risk management – technology, public acceptance and compliance.  Accurate and reliable technology is crucial in order to handle rescue missions as it is a time critical situation so there is little room for error. The art of dropping flotation devices from drones took over 3 years and 200 tries to perfect it. The technology needs to be updated constantly and safe for both rescue victims and crews. The second aspect is public acceptance. Flying a drone over beaches, where it is seen as a relaxing getaway for most people could raise concerns regarding privacy. However, based on a survey conducted by OMADA, 99% of the respondents accept the flying drones as it made them feel safer, knowing that there is a prepared lifeguard in the air. Shark attacks are also an issue in Australia, affecting safety, tourism and local employment. To curb this, drones are used as countermeasures against shark attacks. The third aspect is compliance, where these drones have to follow the regulations set by the government. This includes getting proper training and license, and registering your drones. OMADA provies special training for drone pilots who wish to be involved in disaster risk management. Mr Bennet states that perseverance is key in order to use technology to save lives.

The final speaker is Mr David Turkington, Head of Technology of GSMA and talks about the impact of 5G in UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management). Drones are considered as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem and they would need to rely on mobile network to work efficiently. The mobile industry is a key player towards the development of the commercial drone market.

5G is seen as the latest evolution in mobile network, preceding 3G and 4G, and could benefit drones the most due to one characteristic: network slicing. Network slicing is a method where users are given different slices of the network to help with better traffic management. In cases of airports, these could mean that passengers will get a slice of the network, while machines could get a different slice, which is separate from the passenger’s network, avoiding any complications like slow internet and so on. Among the benefits of 5G is the security provided, as there is a standardized process followed by all providers, it’s cost effective, has more coverage, has a secure and authentic communication channel, and direct communication between devices. These benefits could help improve the aviation system, including drones to get better network which is crucial to the efficiency of the industry. Basically, 5G is the best network there is for drones.

In conclusion, there is a lot of potential for the drone market and its integration into society, however there are factors that need to be considered in order to achieve this goal: perseverance, proactiveness, proper regulations and communication.




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