Media Drones Over Islamabad

Since tens of thousands of supporters of Imran Khan and Allama Tahir ul Qadri marched into Islamabad a few days ago, there have been continuous live aerial images and spectacular videos of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's and Pakistan Awami Tehrik's massive but peaceful sit-in protests broadcast directly from Islamabad by several Pakistani TV channels. This breathtaking live drone camera coverage of  a major media event has made drone journalism history in the South Asian country of over 180 million people.



There are few examples of such mainstream media coverage using drones. One example is when Australia's Nine Networks 60 Minutes program used  an unmanned aerial vehicle to broadcast images of  a vast immigration detention camp set up by the Australian government away from the eyes of the media. Paparazzi, too, use drones but such activity is often illegal and frowned upon by the mainstream media.


The Punjab government banned the use of media drones in Lahore where the PTI and PAT rallies originated before converging on Islamabad. “We have banned the use of helicams/drone cameras after the Ministry of Defence has informed us in writing that the use of such flying devices by anyone except the authorised state agencies is already banned under certain rules and regulations related to civil aviation, etc,” District Coordination Officer retired Capt Muhammad Usman told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

In Islamabad, however, there have been half a dozen drones in the air covering the combined PTI-PAT dharna (sit-in) round the clock for the last several days. “We were stopped from using these machines yesterday to cover the placement of the containers because the authorities have become sensitive about it,” says Nadeem Ihsan, senior manager (technical) of Samaa TV, which says it used the drone camera the first time in Islamabad during the coverage of the PTI’s earlier public gathering at D-Chowk on May 11.

Pakistani authorities remain cautious about the growing use of these new drones. “We are concerned that the number of these drones may increase to an unlimited level and that would be alarming. We need to make rules to control this technology,” a senior administration official said.

Silicon Valley's Venturebeat publication cites the following additional recent examples of drone usage for reporting:

1. In December 2011, a Fair Elections rally in Moscow used a remote-control model helicopter to get government-independent aerial photos of the crowd.

2. In summer of 2013, a drone videotaped a police clash at a demonstration in Istanbul. The drone was reportedly later shot down, apparently by police.

3. In March 2014, a business systems expert shot half an hour of aerial video in East Harlem after a gas explosion demolished two buildings.

4. CNN has an ongoing request for crowdsourced drone aerial footage.

5. Using drone imagery, Wake Forest University created a 3D model of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill in North Carolina, independent of the utility-favoring state regulators.

6. Drone maker DJI has demonstrated spectacular video of its Phantom drone flying into a volcano in the Tanna island of Vanuatu.

7. In 2012, a camera drone flying near Dallas discovered blood-red spots in the Trinity River. It turned out that pig blood was being emptied via an underground pipe from the Columbia Meat packing plant, located on a creek that feeds into the river. The company was indicted on 18 criminal counts, and a trial is pending.

The civilian drones are coming. Some drone makers would like to see them swarming the skies soon. But  others are horrified at the prospect of so many drones flying overhead. Before the drone usage becomes widespread, there will have to be reasonable regulations in place to address safety and privacy concerns of the public at large.

Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Drones Inspire and Outrage Pakistanis

Pakistan Media Revolution

Drone Journalism Lab

Military Contingency Plans For Escalating Political Crisis

Pakistani Drones in America

Imran Khan Draws Inspiration From Allama Iqbal

Kudos to Qadri

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
PAKISTAN’S SILENT DRONE REVOLUTION
A generation of #engineers and students are engaged in efforts to develop & build civil #drones for #Pakistan. Civilian drone apps include #infrastructure inspection, #delivery business, #mapping, #agriculture & #mining. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2331335/pakistans-silent-drone-revolution

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1465025303584010241?s=20


The last two decades have reshaped the technological landscape of the world perhaps more drastically than any other time in history. The digital revolution, which perhaps began not that remarkably in the second half of the previous century, has evolved and expanded exponentially. Once seen as novelties for the well off, electronic items like smart devices and digital cameras have now become integral to daily life.

But while new generation of upgrades in these gadgets, smartphones and laptops hog most public attention, the civilian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone has gone through a silent but drastic evolution of its own. The world over, these miniature flying machines are now an essential tool in the kit of various industries. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, their immense utility is now clearer than ever before.

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In July 2020, the government of Pakistan shared plans to formulate a National Drone Policy and in March 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced creation of Civil Drone Authority to regulate unmanned aircraft in Pakistan.

Ikram highlighted that the National Drone Policy needed a three pronged approach.

“Firstly, it should enable the growth of UAV industry in the country by turning it economical to design and manufacture UAVs in Pakistan as opposed to importing them,” he said. “Secondly, it should provide a practical framework for authorisation of UAV flying in coordination with CAA and other stakeholders.”

Finally, he added that it should enable the formation of UAV ports and training centers so that our next generation is in step with rest of the world.

Many stakeholders term absence of approval of drone policy a major hurdle in growth of the drone industry in Pakistan.

Giving details of the National Drone Policy, Siddiqui said that it would demand licensing of drone because the government needed to know who is flying them and for what purpose.

“This will curb smuggling and increase legitimate businesses which is a good thing for the industry,” he said. “Following implementation of the policy, local and international drone dealers in Pakistan would be encouraged with the passage of time.”

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Raza Sabri, who is involved in production of customised drones for defence forces and the government, agreed that the market of non-combat drones in Pakistan was quite visible and it was growing day after day. According to him, the most prominent civilian applications of drone included land survey, mapping, agriculture use and mining.

He appreciated that the revenue earned by his company from non-combat drones was rising as well given the rapid adoption of service drones in Pakistan. Sabri added that his enterprise was exploring this segment and at this point, the potential of such machines in Pakistan was extremely strong.

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According to Sabri, the biggest hurdle to the drone ecosystem was the absence of a dedicated policy to regulate drones. “Massive amount of work was done in this area and the government took a huge amount of stakeholders, including us, on board however the federal cabinet has not ratified it yet,” Sabri elaborated. “Until the policy takes effect, the arrangement of drone components and usage of drones will remain a huge challenge in Pakistan.”

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