Drones: flying for business or leisure?


These days, attending events such as weddings or spending a vacation by the beach have a new sound to it. Yes, a new sound—that is—the sound of drones buzzing up in the air capturing videos or photos for that literal “bird’s eye view”.

Evidently, the market for “drones” or Remotely Piloted Aircrafts (RPA) has boomed and since solidified itself as a new sector in the camera and hobby-toy industry. Despite being priced from a few thousand pesos and reaching to about six-figures, the market for these products soared compared to a decade ago where mini-helicopters were mainstream.

Now geared towards the common consumer market, these drones revolutionized videography, travel photos, vlogs, and selfies. Having advanced features from hand gestures inactivating commands to controlling the drone through a headgear, drones revolutionized how videos and photos are captured. The possible uses are indeed limitless.

Drones have been known to be used for a vast array of applications other than mere video/photography. Drones have been used for journalism as they provide a different vantage point and giving journalist the bigger picture they often desire. Law enforcement, disaster management, weather forecasting, and rescue operations also turned to drones to significantly reduce risk to human safety, in addition to being able to maneuver through heights and depths not normally accessible through basic human effort ingathering accurate information.

Out of the other industries, however, drones brought in the biggest impact in the commercial sphere. Aside from the RPA market itself, drones revolutionized how goods and services are provided by business establishments. In the food industry, for instance, drones are now being used to deliver goods to nearby customers or to provide other similar services. The same way in the construction business, drones are now the primary tools in structural safety inspections and other construction projects—thus, removing the hazards of actual human presence in such dangerous conditions.

While its practical uses may be limitless, actual operation of these devices are regulated by the Government through the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). With its amended rules, CAAP laid down guidelines on the use of these devices.

For non-commercial use of drones not weighing more than 7kg, Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) mandates that a person controlling such a drone: (1) may only operate it within his/her visual line of sight; (2) cannot fly it at night (unless authorized by CAAP); (3) cannot conduct flying displays or air shows (unless authorized by CAAP); (4) can only fly a drone over a populous area at a height where should the drone fail, it can still clear the area; (5) ensure that the drone is operated at least 30 meters away from anyone not directly associated in controlling it; (6) may fly a drone at a maximum altitude of 400ft above ground level (unless authorized by CAAP); (7) must not fly within 10km from an Aerodrome Reference Point (ARP) (i.e. airports); and (8) must not fly over prohibited airspace (i.e. military camps or the Malacañang Palace), unless authorized by CAAP.

For commercial use or for drones weighing over 7kg, the controller must secure an RPA Controller/Operator Certificate and that the drone itself must be registered with the CAAP. The CAAP rules add that a Special Certificate of Airworthiness (SCA) or Experimental Certificate (EC) must be secured for drones weighing at least 150kg.

So, before heading to the nearest hobby store or jumping into the drone supply chain, it will be wise to take a look on these regulations and seethe possible applications of RPAs—either for business or for leisure.

Atty. Mike is a proud Kapampangan who took up BS Accountancy in Holy Angel University and later finished his law studies in Ateneo de Manila. Upon passing the bar, he engaged in private practice at Ong Meneses Gonzalez & Gupit Law Offices and began his teaching career in De La Salle University. He now serves as the Assoc. Legal counsel of DLSU and legal consultant to both private and government organizations.

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