Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are aircraft which do not have a pilot onboard. In common discourse, the UAVs are also called drones or Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs). While RPVs are exclusively controlled by a remote pilot, UAVs, in general, could be controlled autonomously.
Over the recent past, UAVs have become progressively prevalent around the world. With the advent of mass production of UAVs, the unit cost of UAVs has decreased, making it available to the common man. The abundance of drones in the airspace has led to many issues regarding public safety and ethics such as interference to air traffic, privacy concerns, etc. Recognizing this trend, governments worldwide have started to design formal rules to regulate drones. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), USA released its UAV regulations in 14 CFR Part 107 in 2016 and other countries have followed suit including DGCA rules which came into effect in December 2018. By nature of the developments being made in the UAV industry, these rules need to be updated and standardized, a process which is ongoing.
While previously UAVs were primarily bought by governments and (to some extent) hobbyists, enterprises are increasingly procuring drones for business uses. Drone delivery systems, which are just coming of age, could potentially change the consumer industry. While delivery systems have been used recently, a major update of drone regulations is required for a major expansion in drone delivery. Another use of UAVs can be tied to upcoming 5G networks. With the ability to stream high-quality data, 5G enabled drones can be used by entertainment, sports and tourism industries to provide high-quality visual experiences in real time. Miniaturization of sensors and this has led to an increase in aerial inspection applications using drones. These sensor-based UAVs have largely replaced manned aerial surveillance and are expected to grow with as new sensors are developed.
Civilian uses aside, governments around the world are still the primary users of UAVs, accounting for approximately 70% of the industry. Weaponized UAVs have become a standard fixture of the defense forces around the world. Stealth and swarm technologies are now coming into prominence. Governments are also looking at drones for homeland security applications such as disaster mitigation, border security, etc. Some of these potential applications have sparked off new debates about the scope of governmental surveillance, the possibility of abuse and the independence of citizens. The democratization of drone technology, however, has led to its use by unfavorable elements of society. The recent spate of attacks by terrorists using commercial drones has led to the urgency in the development of anti-drone equipment. With civilian installations becoming vulnerable to drone-related disturbances, local law enforcement can be expected to deploy anti-drone technology in the future.
Samuel Vivek Williams, Associate Professor, IIAEM, JU
School of Engineering and Technology (Jain – Deemed – to – be – University)