Commercial Drones' Registration and its Applications Overview in Pakistan
The recent comment of Minister of Science and Technology Mr. Fawad Chaudhry about drone technology is commendable and showing the government commitment towards introducing the latest technologies for the betterment of Pakistan. He briefed that drone technology is now being used in Precision Agriculture where sowing of seeds and fertilizer are placed using drones. He has also highlighted that drone is banned in Pakistan and necessary procedures should be outlined to register these drones.
Drones are being used in many economic contributing sectors. These include infrastructure, agriculture, transport, security, media & entertainment, insurance, telecommunications, and mining, etc. The rate of use of drones is exponentially increasing due to its efficacy, and low-cost operations. According to a 2018 report, the addressable market of the drone applications is over 127 billion $ and would be offering 100,000 new jobs by 2025. Consequently, sales of drones are also increasing and it is expected to reach 12 billion $ in 2021 with a compound annual growth rate of 7.6%.
Developed and many developing countries have formulated their policies to register and allowing companies to operate commercial drones. India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives, and many African countries are a few names. Civil aviation authorities of these countries formulated the policies and registering the drones for commercial purposes. For example, in India, all drone operators are required to register their drones and request permission to fly through the Digital Sky Platform, a mobile app, which automatically processes the request to grant or reject it.
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has prepared the draft of the National Aviation Policy (NAP) 2019 and included all the remotely controlled aircraft, which includes drones also. However, according to section 1.2 of NAP 2019, they have just indicated that a separate policy will be prepared later with the assistance of Interior Ministry and Defence Ministry. Moreover, Chapter 4 of NAP 2019, considering a drone as an aircraft, which indeed it is as per their definition, suggests that PCAA has sufficient pathways to register and operate the commercial drone services. It also suggests that the PCAA will encourage and facilitate the private sector to develop and operate aircraft in Pakistan as well.
A drone is equipped with a camera and a GPS receiver which collects geospatial data. The collection of this data is regulated by the Survey of Pakistan, according to the Survey of Pakistan Act 2014. The survey of Pakistan is well aware of the latest geospatial technologies thus they included drone technology as well in their Act. Under this act, Survey if Pakistan is registering all geospatial equipment, including drones, and offering companies the required license to operate in Pakistan, though Pakistan Engineering Council were previously registering engineering companies for Aerial Surveys.
These developments in Pakistan suggested that the emerging technologies have already been catered for in the relevant policies and laws and now is the time to streamline the procedure to register the drones and allow commercial companies to operate and contribute to the development of Pakistan.