The integration of UAVs into the civilian airspace will open up a new market
Comprehensive policy and regulations are needed to be formulated immediately to reap the benefits of UAVs
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are making significant impact for their continuing technological innovations and their diverse applications both in military and commercial field. In the military, UAVs are used for Net-Centric Operations (NCO) missions as an intelligent sensor grid such as persistence intelligence gathering, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Target Acquisition (TA), the acquired data will be transferred to Command and Control (C2) via robust secure Datalink which may be with in line of sight or beyond line of sight for decision making and action will be taken to attack target using precision weapon shooter grid. Hence in the sensor grid UAVs are more beneficial than ground radars, manned fighters/helicopters, satellites due to real time data dissemination such as video and still images to C2 grid for increased combat power and real-time battle field situation awareness. At a time data can be shared to various grids/ operational commanders in real time which are dispersed in the geographical locations thousands of kilometers away hence reducing the cycle time between sensors to shooter grid. UAVs, C2 and shooter grid need not be located nearby which may be vulnerable to enemy. The cost of UAVs is a fraction cost that of a manned aircraft/helicopter or satellite which makes UAVs more economical for military missions.
In the Commercial scenario small UAVs landscape is emerging steadily such as border surveillance, disaster response, firefighting, law enforcement, precision agriculture, news coverage, land mapping and personal use to mention a few. Small UAVs or drones are available in the market which is fully equipped with an HD camera controllable with an iPad for about $300.
Recently 7-eleven company from US delivered a chicken sandwich, donuts, hotcoffee and candy to the customer’s order through UAV/drone. The company partnered with UAV startup flirtey for the delivery, the drone flew autonomously to one mile from the 7-eleven stores in the Reno to the family house using GPS. After drone reached the house, it hovered above, while lowering the container to the family’s backyard using a rope.This has been a legally delivered package by drone to the US resident who placed an order from retailer. Delivery of goods can be made efficiently and rapidly.
UAVs increase our human potential; they execute dull, dirty and dangerous tasks safely and efficiently, saving time, saving money and sometime saving life. Around the world UAVs help farmers manage their crops, monitor or spray costs using advanced imaging technologies. Farmers can detect drought, disease, stress in the crops well in advance which leads to saving of money and reducing environmental impact. In Japan around 1500 small UAVs are being used for their rice field for monitoring crops and spray control.
UAVs are very useful and economical in enhancing public safety, helping route clearance for convoys, traffic control,and rescue operations by police and for crowd control. UAVs are very effective for firefighters surveying fires and detecting hotspots hence escape routes can be planned in real-time. In India Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka states police have purchased small UAVs for crowd control and for traffic situational awareness.
In the manmade and natural disasters UAVs play a significant role in mitigating and monitoring effectively. They aid in search and rescue efforts to identify survivors and recover those lost in the disaster and help in making assessing the damage due to disasters such as, Tsunami, cloud burst, nuclear biological chemical hazards and floods which are frequent in Asian countries.
UAVs are very economical for environmental/government organizations for monitoring forests for illegal logging, deforestation and wildlife protection as they give real-time and early warning for decision bodies to take immediate action. UAVs gather information from reserve forests and help in conducting environmental impact assessments specifically where ground operations are very tedious and manpower intensive in difficult and inaccessible terrain and vegetation.
UAVs can provide job opportunities to the young engineers in various fields when drones employed in the large scale. Cinematography and personal use is another emerging usage of drones. Hence economic benefits of UAVs to the nation are enormous.
As UAVs are making significant contributions in the commercial sector, the integration of UAVs is one of the challenging task to policymakers as there are no comprehensive policy and regulations, which are need to be formulated immediately to reap the benefits of UAVs. Military, Research organizations are allowed to use the airspace for UAVs, but commercial organizations are not permitted to put UAVs in to the sky. As such integration raises some fundamental questions that require a major policy rethink on airspace management and control and overall safety of UAVs, such as: How and who will coordinate unmanned and manned fl ights in a mixed airspace, Identification of UAVs, legal regulations, Collision avoidance and cyber security which are need to be addressed. Another important aspect is functional integrity of UAV components and redundancy which need to be addressed for safe operation.
The integration of UAVs in to the civilian airspace will open up a new market for UAV technology, creating new jobs, boost local economies and tax revenues, reinvigorate manufacturing bases and advance India as spearhead in UAV technologies and innovations.