EghtesadOnline: Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as UAVs or drones, have opened new doors in the realm of aviation on a global scale, especially Iran.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, an unmanned aerial vehicle is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system, which include a ground-based controller and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers.
In an exclusive interview with Financial Tribune, Director of Air Navigation and Aerodromes with the Iran Civil Aviation Organization Mohammad Saeed Sharafi said Iran is among pioneers in streamlining and organizing the use of UAVs.
“As we speak, there are over 5,000 licensed non-military UAVs operating in Iran,” Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
According to Sharafi, UAVs whose weight exceeds 1 kilogram and those equipped with cameras are required to have a license to operate in Iran.
UAVs are used for entertainment, business, pesticide spraying, photography, land surveying and power line checking, among other applications.
“We predict the number of UAVs in Iran to increase to around 20,000 in the next five years with a wide range of activities,” he said.
Sharafi explains that with the advent of UAVs, we are facing a new era in aviation, which on the one hand means new opportunities and on the other could pose a security problem by threatening citizen’s rights and privacy.
There are restricted areas where UAVs are not allowed to fly while there are places where UAV operations need special permits. The operators are required to have certain qualifications.
“Up until a year ago, there weren’t specific rules and regulations regarding the use of UAVs, not only in Iran but also in many other countries,” he said.
“Considering the economic aspects, operational issues, security measures, social aspects and compensating possible damages, we have managed to devise rules and regulations regarding the use of UAVs in Iran,” Sharafi said, adding that regulations have been finalized and are ready to be published soon.
As much as UAVs can be used for constructive purposes, they can also be hazardous and be employed for illegal purposes, so carefully applying the regulations and supervision are necessary.
“A drone can be used as a weapon,” he said, stressing that specific protocols need to be set in place.
Sharafi explained that importing, manufacturing, purchasing and using drones are similar to those for guns.
“When rules and regulations are at work, you can visit authorized stores and purchase drones. They can be registered through a centralized system. Relevant training can be offered to users at authorized training centers and users can obtain their licenses.”
As for toy drones, there is no need to obtain any licenses, however certain guidelines and precautions need to be considered. For example, users should not fly their drones near airports or gas stations, not let them fly far out of sight and keep their distance from other people or cars.
Benefits, Impact on Economy
Nowadays, the uses of UAVs have expanded to a great extent, as they are transporting postal packages and pharmaceuticals.
The application of UAVs could certainly increase efficiency, Sharafi believes, noting that in many countries, hospitals are transferring body organs from one point to another with UAVs as it would cost a lot more if they transfer them via car or helicopter, which in turn needs special infrastructures.
“The development of UAVs in Iran will have a positive impact on the economy. Drones benefit the economy in direct and indirect ways. They can certainly help increase productivity. Job creation is the undeniable part of development of drones. For instance, they will open new horizons in the field of photography,” he said.
As for security, previously one had to use a lot of resources, including personnel and closed-circuit television cameras to protect a facility like a refinery. But now with just a drone and a user controlling it from a room, one can efficiently supervise a large facility and cut costs.
Interestingly, in the area of search and rescue, Iranians have managed to make UAVs that are able to save lives in coastal areas. Instead of divers or boats rushing to save a drowning person in the sea, a UAV has the ability to quickly fly, find the person in need and throw a rescue tube for that person.
There are also life-detection UAVs capable of flying and detecting people trapped in disaster areas with infrared cameras.
“I believe the development of UAVs can create as many jobs as the whole Iranian aviation industry. It can be equally beneficial,” he concluded.