Gyalsten K Dorji
In a first, the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA), assisted by the Department of Air Transport and the police seized a drone that was being illegally flown to take photographs of Kichu lhakang, in Paro, earlier this month.
The drone was being operated by a tourist to take photographs of Kichu lhakang when it was spotted by police. The drone was handed over to the BCAA, which has banned the use of unauthorized drones in Bhutan until regulations are in place.
The BCAA deleted the photos taken using the drone for security purposes and fined the tour agent Nu 5,000.
As the tourist was unaware of the ban, it was pointed out that the tour agent was fined, and that the drone was returned to the tourist on leaving the country.
While drones can be operated in Bhutan, its use is usually limited for social mandates, and prior approval from the BCAA has to be sought. Additionally, prior to operating a drone, authorization from the Air Traffic Control tower in Paro airport also has to be obtained.
However, in Paro, the use of drones is completely banned as the international airport is located there.
BCAA director, Wangdi Gyaltshen, said that the drone even though being operated in Paro had posed no threat to flights that day. He also pointed out that it was a miniature drone and not a large one that can operate at higher altitudes. However, he pointed out that the complete ban for Paro is in place as a precautionary measure.
The BCAA has been attempting to develop regulations on use of drones since April this year.
Wangdi Gyaltshen said that countries globally, even developed ones, are facing challenges in creating regulations for drones.
For instance, it was only last week that Chicago, in the USA, where drone usage is very high, adopted legislation to control its use.
Wangdi Gyaltshen said that the BCAA has studied regulations being drafted in other countries. He said that drones vary in sizes and to come up with regulations that generalize the issue would not be adequate.
However, he pointed out that Nepal has recently introduced an advisory circular as an interim measure.
The BCAA is likely to follow a similar path.