Friday, September 20, 2019

A flight plan for tech regulation

Drones have captured headlines this week. The spectacular drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities knocked out ~5% of daily oil supply. The Maharashtra government announced that it signed up with a global private firm to “use a logistics network of autonomous delivery drones to help transform emergency medicine and critical care”. The Economist, on its latest cover, highlighted that ‘flying taxis take off’ even as earlier this year, the Gatwick airport closed for a day and a half over “drone sighting”.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), have become common in a wide variety of more beneficial, mundane and practical applications in agriculture, infrastructure asset maintenance and supervision, geological and property surveys, entertainment and a wide variety of upcoming fields. Management consultants routinely highlight the billions of dollars of new opportunity that this technology unleashes. The progress in battery technology (which allows the vehicle to be light enough to be propelled), improvement in communication, navigation and tracking technologies, and the development of unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems have contributed significantly to the proliferation of drones.
Over the last few years, India went from a complete ban on drones to a more nuanced policy of ‘No Permission, No Take-off’ (NPNT), which is to be coordinated using the Digital Sky portal and application, which is now under development. The eventual expectation of Digital Sky is that the NPNT process will be real-time, dynamic and online.

New technologies bring with them challenges of regulation. The key challenges facing regulators in the context of drones are privacy, safety and security. This means that policy-making inputs and control rest with a large number of governmental entities dealing with internal and external security, aviation and urban development authorities, and privacy and safety advocates.

This is not a new or a unique challenge. When automobiles first started to appear ~150 years ago, societies and governments grappled for a long time to come to terms with ‘autonomous’ vehicles that did not require animal power. Among the various laws that governed transportation using mechanical carriages were the (in)famous ‘Red Flag’ laws, both in the US and the UK. A sample law: “One of such persons, while any locomotive is in motion, shall precede such locomotive on foot by not less than sixty yards, and shall carry a red flag constantly to warn the riders and drivers of horses of the approach of such locomotives and shall signal the approach thereof when it shall be necessary to stop, and shall assist horses and carriages drawn by horses, passing the same.” It was more than two decades after the coming of Model-T that the system of signals, road customs, and signs began to resemble the ones that we are familiar with today.
20/09/19 Akhilesh Tilotia/Financial Express
To Read the News in full at Source, Click the Headline


Post a Comment