A drone was recently seized from a tourist in Paro. The tourist was using it to take photographs of Kichu lhakhang.

The activity may seem harmless but there is a need for drone use to be strictly restricted or banned until regulations are in place.

The drone may not have posed a safety risk to aircraft but there are other aspects that require attention such as privacy and acceptable areas of operation.

Regulators worldwide are attempting to figure out exactly what kinds of regulations should be introduced. The Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority has also been attempting to do so for the past eight months.

That the incident occurred in Paro, which is a complete no-fly zone for drones given daily aircraft operations, shows that awareness of the restriction is low, or being ignored.

With drones becoming cheaper and easily available, it is unavoidable that people will operate them in Bhutan, ban or no ban.

There is a need for regulations to be in place as soon as possible so that users would know the dos and don’ts of drone operation in Bhutan. And drones also offer so much potential when it comes to positive uses. The health ministry is exploring the use of drone to collect samples and deliver medicine to remote BHUs. A drone is already being used to map changes in forest cover in Bumthang.

Other uses could eventually include monitoring forest fires, searching for missing people in the forest, monitoring a lake in the north, shooting documentaries and movies, among others.

By having some basic regulations in place, such as where you can fly drones, how high you can fly them, whether you can fly them over private property, government property, dzongs, etc., should not be difficult to come up with and without outside help.

Perhaps, requiring drone operators to also register themselves with the local authority may be a good move. Drones have been involved in accidents, such as crashing into the White House in the USA or falling on people and causing injuries. Drones have also been used with criminal intent. By requiring operators to register, a screening process can also be conducted to determine if the operator is competent enough to fly a drone safely. It would also act as a barrier to any person attempting to misuse a drone.