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Jan 10, 2018

How to Manage your Drone

Usage of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, has exploded in recent years as the average man and woman experience the wonder of flight, not unlike kites or traveling in airplanes. But drones also carry importance in certain sectors, like environmental protection and conservation. The Coastal Zone Institute and several local and international partners, including the Department of Civil Aviation and Port Authority – hosted visiting professors from the GIS department at the University of Central Florida to discuss how drones could be used to help protect the environment and the do’s and don’ts of their usage. Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, are the latest invention of man to get him into the sky. While originally restricted to military capabilities, for dropping bombs and the like, there are more civilians now interested in operating drones in a commercial and recreational capacity. The environmental community is getting in on the ground floor in terms of their use for keeping an eye on the marine environment.

 

Arlene Young

Arlene Young, Director, Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute

“We’ve realized that there is interest in using drones for several works as it relates to conservation, mapping, education, research and outreach, and so we felt it important to gather some stakeholders to discuss some basic requirements and to discuss long-term planning for improving drone management and use in the sector. For us at Coastal Zone, we’re using it as a part of our activities to collect data, to determine baseline status of our coastal planning regions, as it relates to use of our coastal resources, where areas are covered with mangroves or developed. It’s being used in that light to develop a baseline of the use of the coastal zone. And it’s also applicable in the use of looking at disaster risk management, looking at damage assessments, and other planning initiatives.”

 

Visiting professor of geographic information systems at one of the partners in today’s conference, University of Central Florida, Dr. Timothy Hawthorne, outlines some of the advantages drone imagery provides over outdated satellite imagery.

 

Timothy Hawthorne

Dr. Timothy Hawthorne, Assistant Professor of GIS, University of Central Florida

“The satellite imagery is often very outdated, especially as you get away from places like Belize City, that are more populated. So once you get out to some of the smaller islands, the imagery is very old – in some cases ten to fifteen years old – so that’s challenging for proper analysis. The second issue is the resolution or the clarity of the image. Most satellite imagery, the resolution is so poor that you can’t see a lot of the finer details that you might need for mapping analyses. So the drone imagery provides some immediate accuracy that allows you to see the detail necessary to map building structure, to map mangrove loss, and to map dock vulnerability in the case of a natural disaster as well.”

 

But even before thinking of using a drone, if you’ve got one, it needs to be registered with the Department of Civil Aviation. While legislation and a licensing system are being developed, chief operations officer Nigel Carter provided some standing guidelines.

 

Nigel Carter

Nigel Carter, Chief Operations Officer, Department of Civil Aviation

“There is an obligation for any person that wants to import a drone into Belize to get that drone registered. The registration process is a simple process; you come in, you provide us with a letter of intent as well as the specifics of the drone; if you provide us with that information in sufficient time, we should be able to give you authorization even before the drone is imported into the country.  The absolute limit that we are authorizing is four hundred feet. In certain areas that is less; for instance, if you are operating within a more densely populated area, there are certain height restrictions – we’d allow you to go up to about one hundred feet, maybe two hundred feet, based on specifically where you are. There are specific no-fly areas: those are south San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia and Belize City as well.”

 

And in addition to cooperating with authorities, Dr. Hawthorne advises that you keep your eye in the sky and not on the ground.

 

Dr. Timothy Hawthorne

“You want to be focused; when you are using a drone, focus on flying the drone, not talking to your friends, not engaging with a larger crowd, but really focusing on the operation. Because as a pilot, you have a huge responsibility for not only your aircraft as a small drone, but also for the communities that you are flying above, as well.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

If you’re worried about missing out on overhead coverage of the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic or La Ruta Maya coming in March, be advised that the Department is relaxing regulations for registered drone users only. You are advised to come in and register your drone with the Department in order to use it for these and similar events.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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