Toy drones to be controlled

Concerned government authorities are now contemplating legislations to control unmanned aircraft or drones as they are gaining popularity in the country for its ability to provide airborne images that could threaten national security.

This unmanned aircraft toy  had been used to smuggle drugs and even mobile phones into prisons.

In light of this, government agencies involved in the matter are preparing to forward proposals for such controls.

Now unmanned aircraft otherwise known as UAVs (unmanned airborne vehicles) or toy drones are available in the market   and at affordable prices.

But what posed concern for security authorities is that  they now could provide  unique images of high-rises and small communities in such high quality and clarity.

Security authorities fear  that ill-intent individuals may employ them for illicit activities such as surveillance into restricted zones or to violate personal privacy of certain persons in the community.

Most recently, some drones have been used to carry drugs and hand-phones into correction facilities.

Experts in the field of UAVs at King Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi  Campus revealed that the first time such vehicles were used in Thailand was 10 years ago when they were brought in to be used by government agencies.

Later on UAVs became popular as a form of recreation activity as developments in technology allowed them to be produced in smaller sizes. Most of these new, latter generation drones are brought in from China, the USA or Japan and are divided into two types.

The first are classified as toys and are priced starting at 1,000 baht upwards while the second type are classified as enthusiast special equipment and most are employed commercially or in research activities.

These machines are priced anywhere between tens of thousands baht up to hundreds of thousand baht.

The more popular of these are multi-rotor with four propellers and can fly to ranges of more than 1 km. They are priced very high because they employ computer programs to automatically control its flight-path. Because of this, concerns have been raised over the possibility of these UAVs being used for illegal activities.

 Assistant professor Dr Annop Ruengwiset, the head of UAV research at the Department of Engineering at the University said he foresaw problems with regards to UAVs when it applies to the amateur UAV enthusiast.

“Because they are relatively cheap to buy and quite easy to pilot, more and more people are buying them. Most of these amateurs do not possess a thorough knowledge or understanding for operating such vehicles that is why we need to regulate such activities,” he said.

Royal Aeronautic Sports Association of Thailand Group director  Captain Wirayut Dissayarin, meanwhile, stated that the proposal for regulating remotely piloted aircraft which includes drones is in fact started and finished.

What remains is to forward the proposal to the National Legislative Assembly for approval. If approved, these aircraft will have to be registered under one of three classifications which are recreation, commercial and governmental. Each type of aircraft registered under the three classifications will have strict rules limiting their use as well as the type of user who is legally qualified to purchase them, he said.

This makes for easier tracking and policing the pilots themselves will be more convenient. There must also be instruction provided to instruct the pilots on the rules and regulations as well as the proper etiquette for piloting unmanned aircraft, he said.

One UAV enthusiast who was questioned agreed totally that the sport needs to be regulated as UAVs are very easy to buy and pilot.

As of the present, he stated that they can be flown just about anywhere which posses some safety concerns for when control is lost and they crash.

“Because they have propellers they pose a certain degree of danger in the event that they crash into human-beings. Properly regulated, the overall safety of the sport and a general standard of conduct will be in place which will result in a well organised and enjoyable past-time,” he said.

He also said there had been incidents where some drones had strayed into the commercial aircraft flight paths such as recently in the UK.

This forced authorities to specify that drones can only be flown no higher or further than human line of sight.

Thailand needs such measures because on the whole these aircraft are used legitimately for constructive purposes.

So far, only 10% have been employed in illicit activities. Regulations must also take into account the buyers as well as the shops that sell these aircrafts so as to ensure that they are used as they were originally designed to be used, he viewed.