WE read with bated breath NST Online’s report on a drone hitting a commercial plane in Quebec City, Canada. We learned with relief that there were no injuries reported in the Thursday incident at the city’s Jean Lesage International Airport involving a Skyjet Aviation plane. The incident could have resulted in disaster as there were six passengers and two crew members at the time of the collision. As it turned out, we are glad that there was only minor damage to the plane and the eight were safe, perhaps a little shaken.
Malaysians will recall something similar, but not nearly as disastrous, when a drone operator flew his machine in the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur International Airport in March 2015 to catch on camera a commercial airline making a landing. We may think the incident innocuous, but it was pregnant with grave danger. Imagine the drone being sucked into the jet engine and you can contemplate the horrible consequences. Such incidents became so rampant that the Civil Aviation Department (DCA) was compelled to lodge a police report.
A clear warning must be sent to these errant drone operators that they are dicing with death, albeit the death of others. The simple fact is flying drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in Malaysian airspace requires approval from DCA. This is spelt out in Sections 140-143 of the Civil Aviation Act 1969. Another is the Aeronautical Information Circular 2008 (AIC04/2008), issued in the exercise of the powers conferred under Section 24 of the act. Section 5 of the circular spells out DCA’s requirements for drones. Under Section 5.1, any civil UAVs of more than 20kg is required to undergo a DCA airworthiness certification process. This section, for some reason, has led some operators to mistakenly skip getting permits for their UAVs that are below this weight. This is not just a matter of making a mistake, but is being irresponsible as well. Section 5.3 of the circular clearly requires civil UAVs to have either a certificate of airworthiness or a permit to fly issued by DCA before they take to the airspace.
UAVs of any weight require DCA’s go ahead, and for good reason, too. Think of the Skyjet Aviation incident and you will understand the permit-to-fly requirement. There are also untold stories behind the regulations’ stricture. There have been many cases of drones flying over what are called restricted or sensitive areas. This newspaper understands that while there are enough laws governing UAVs, a more holistic approach to regulating them is being progressed by the authorities. We welcome such a move for the sake of safety and security. We understand that drones serve useful purposes, such as monitoring natural disasters, mapping terrains or even delivering that cranberry pizza we crave so much, but we must act responsibly, andrules and regulations are there to ensure that we do so.