Monday, August 05, 2013

More UAVs to fly in Naxal belt, set off air safety fears

New Delhi: India is planning to drastically scale up the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from one to six that survey the skies at the same time over Naxalite-infested areas in Chhattisgarh, but the move has the civil aviation authorities worried over air safety issues. This is because the altitude at which the UAVs fly will be raised from the current 10,000 ft to 20,000 ft. A large number of passenger aircraft fly over central India and the authorities want to avoid the possibility of any mid-air collision.
Well-placed sources said it was pointed out by the aviation authorities that the UAVs must have transponders installed to detect aircraft flying in the vicinity. The authorities also want guidelines in place to regulate the operation of UAVs when commercial flights are operating in the same airspace. Sources said a monitoring mechanism may soon be put in place at Hyderabad and at a location near Bhilai in Chhattisgarh. The number of UAVs to be put into operation is being scaled up as their data inputs are proving extremely valuable. For instance, recently, the flight path of a helicopter over Chhattisgarh (which had a prominent Union minister on board) was diverted at the last minute after Naxalite movement was detected (through UAV data) near the place where the helicopter was due to land.
05/08/13 Sridhar Kumaraswami/Asian Age