The droning sound of slow progress

Governments worldwide need to better respond to the meteoric rise of civilian-operated drones, said Mr Angus Scott and Mr Peter van Blijenburgh.
Governments worldwide need to better respond to the meteoric rise of civilian-operated drones, said Mr Angus Scott and Mr Peter van Blijenburgh.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Gleaming in the desert sun and handled by masked Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists, the sleek drone looked out of place in the sand.

Playing back part of a recent ISIS propaganda video, Mr Angus Scott, a drone piloting instructor based in Hong Kong, spoke about the need to combat maliciously piloted drones at the Drone Asia conference held at Marina Bay Sands on Wednesday.

Existing civil aviation regulations drafted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) typically leave security agencies of member states with their hands tied, he pointed out. Under ICAO statutes, it is an offence for a person to interfere with any aircraft in flight - including drones.

"The problem is using certain types of equipment to intercept drones may actually be illegal, although it seems like a good idea and we all think the police should have the right to do that," said Mr Scott in an interview with The Straits Times.

The 52-year-old was consulted by the Hong Kong Police Force on mitigating the airborne threats posed by drones, especially to high-profile individuals.

"By pointing a radar jammer... at an aircraft, you have got to consider what is going on behind that aircraft - it could be a manned aircraft coming in to land and you (will) affect its flight systems."

REGULATORY ISSUE

The big problem is that the regulatory authorities work slower than technology gets developed.

MR PETER VAN BLIJENBURGH, on the development of legislation covering the use of drones.

Both Mr Scott and conference moderator Peter van Blijenburgh agreed that governments worldwide need to better respond to the meteoric rise of civilian-operated drones. "The big problem is that the regulatory authorities work slower than technology gets developed," said the chief executive of Blyenburgh and Co, a French strategic consultancy specialising in remotely piloted aircraft systems.

He added that the misuse of drones should fall under existing laws and any new regulatory framework should focus on ensuring public safety.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'The droning sound of slow progress'. Print Edition | Subscribe