Authority will be mandated to regulate unmanned aircraft systems in the country
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the formation of a civil drone authority to regulate the use of drones and also boost local production.
Developing a policy framework for the adoption and management of drones is essential for businesses, agriculture, research and development, and other areas, said Khan.
The new drone authority would not only fill the regulatory void but would also be instrumental in the promotion and domestic production of drones. “Efficient use of drone technology will help improve utilization of resources and service levels,” the premier said. He urged to speed up the formation of the organization after the cabinet’s approval.
Pakistan’s first drone regulatory authority will supervise and implement several regulations related to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones including licensing or drone permits, import, local manufacturing of drones and develop the standards for drone production, operations, training, research and development. It would also provide guidance for operating and flying drones to ensure public safety. The authority would also be empowered to undertake enforcement actions through warnings, fines and imprisonment.
The new organization would be headed by secretary aviation division Shoukat Ali and would comprise of top officers from Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Ministry of Defence Production, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Science and Technology and representatives from each federating units. Three independent experts, whose names have not been decided yet, would also be part of the organization.
Drone policy or authority?
The public safety and national security challenges posed by unmanned aircraft demand a strong regulatory framework. Experts have welcomed Pakistan government’s drone regulation move but some believe that the country needed a ‘drone policy not an authority.’
“There is no reason to have a separate drone authority when civil aviation authority already exists. Drones are unmanned aircraft and that comes under aviation authority” Mosharraf Zaidi, public policy professional, told Gulf News. He says that a new organization with a few high-paying jobs could add a significant burden on the national exchequer. More importantly, “the new body would make the execution of public policy and regulation less coherent and more open to misuse”, he said.
The policy is seen as the first step towards building the drone industry in a country where the import of drones is practically banned due to security concerns. Experts say the regulation would help Pakistan tap into the commercial drone market, which is expected to touch US$43 billion by 2025 with an annual 20 per cent growth rate.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry described the development as a new “milestone” and said that the ministry’s current focus is agricultural and police drones. Pakistan’s police recently started using drones to ensure public safety and the country also utilized locally developed drones to fight the locust attack.
Incentives for private firms
Pakistani drone manufacturers insist the federal government must encourage the private sector by offering direct support and tax incentives to develop the local industry and attract foreign investments and joint ventures.
“Pakistan is missing out on a huge potential to build its drone industry due to excessive red tape and high custom duties” Imran Wazeer, the COO of ABM SATUMA, a private company with two decades of drone manufacturing and integrated technologies experience, told Gulf News.
The private sector has been at the forefront of developing drone technologies with the support of government all over the world, he said.