Experts call for more research in drone technology

MUSCAT, FEB 27 – Use of drone technology in developmental programmes can yield innumerable benefits like enhancing oil and gas production and support air navigation and the like, according to experts. However, integrating drone technologies into the air traffic and to comply with safety regulations is a challenge which needs to be addressed with the help of research initiatives, according to tech wizards who attended a forum titled “weDrone- Opportunities and Challenges” held at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) on Wednesday.
“We, at the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) have been using drones in the past ten years for pipeline and flare inspections, for project development and for monitoring their oil and gas operations, said Khadija al Aisari, Head of Remote Sensing at PDO. “We have been using drones in the interior of Oman for surveying, geological mapping and for oil and gas inspections since 2013. Their use saves us time and costs”, said Usman Jamil, Manager of GIS and 3D Data Management at Dawood Engineering Consultancy.
Currently, it is prohibited to use drones for private purpose in Oman, according to Mubarak al Farsi from the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA). Any company which needs to employ drones for their operations need to get licence from the PACA.
However, experts identified that there are several threats and ethical issues related to the use of drones, which includes breach of privacy. Flying a drone over crowded places is illegal and endangering the natural environment such as birds.
Speaking on the sidelines of the one day business forum organised in cooperation with the PACA and the Brave Hawks LLC which brought together experts and scientists from the international and local drone sector as well as local businesses interested in using drones for their business operations, Prof Dr Nafaa Jabeur of GUtech said it’s a part of creating awareness among different stakeholders about the legal framework, the space management and the inspection and surveillance of drone technologies.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aiming at promoting research and development between universities and the drone industry, was signed between GUtech, the University of Hasselt (Belgium), Brave Hawks in Oman and Drone Matrix, Belgium.
A display of a software that helps to deploy drones in safe environments developed by UNIFly, an engineering software company from Belgium was conducted.
This particular software has been implemented in many European countries to monitor the flight traffic in real time to reach out to the community and to manage the access of the airspace.
“We will be developing the Duqm Port will be into a ‘Smart Port’ in the next years, using drones for its overall operations”, Hans Van Calster and Kevin Wippermann, from Duqm Port told the media.