These are the political limits of the use of drones in Latin America

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The United States is implementing drones to respond to 911 calls. This situation once again calls into question the limits of this technology

These are the political limits of the use of drones in Latin America

In the month of April, the case of the use of a drone was known, in the middle of a fight between drivers who drove in a theatrical way in California, United States. The drone recorded images, which are transmitted to the smartphones of the officers in charge of the emergency.

Leer en español: Estos son los límites políticos del uso de drones en América Latina

Although this went around the world, it also turned the attention to the need to regulate this kind of technology, because many concerns lie about it. The main one of all, the use of drones as war weapons.

Main concerns about drones

According to an article published by the CBS, by 2015 it had been established that the main situations that had to be resolved, in relation to the drone issue, were linked to:

  • Air safety: During the first half of 2015, pilots of different aircraft reported at least 650 drones sighting in the United States alone. Since then, the number has increased considerably.
  • Privacy: So far, most countries have considered or included in their agendas, regulations to protect the privacy of people. However, especially in Latin America, this is a phenomenon that is still lacking in restrictions.
  • Possibility of becoming weapons: as it was seen in the incident of 2018 in Venezuela (which we will discuss later), drones can be used to carry out attacks, even attempts of selective assassination have been presented. The previous case was presented in Yemen and was perpetrated by the United States Army in 2003, as part of its anti-terrorism campaign after 9/11.
  • Damage to themselves or other properties: about this item, doubts have been raised about liability in case of damage to people or property, a product of accidents or equipment failure.
  • Invasion of the airspace: companies like Amazon, have indicated their interest in using drones to make deliveries. This would imply the use of unregulated airspace. Likewise, situations would also arise in relation to the collection of taxes and other taxes with which regulated cargo transport companies comply.
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Alleged attempted murder against Nicolás Maduro

During a speech, in the middle of a public event on August 4, 2018, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, was interrupted by two loud explosions. Subsequently, the Venezuelan president's security agencies claimed that it was a failed assassination attempt and that it was carried out using drones loaded with explosives.

Although the nature of this event has not yet been proven, it did open the conversation about the possibility of a political murder perpetrated using these devices. The above due to the unpredictability of the act and how difficult it is to stop, once detected.

Some experts, such as Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Bruno Oliveira Martins, of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO), consider in research published by the University of Los Andes, in Colombia, that this is the result of the lack of regulation over airspace.

Policies and regulations in Latin America

Before continuing with the policies, it is necessary to first delve into the concept of airspace. Each country has, by geographic limits (including its nautical territory), sovereignty over the use of the airspace that corresponds to its territory. However, the lower part of this space is considered public space. There is no international consensus on vertical airspace limits, ranging from 30 to 100 kilometers.

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Now, in the Latin American countries, there are substantial differences with regard to the regulation of airspace, which complicates, even more, the regional cooperation to unify criteria on this new challenge. Some of these regulations are:

  • The entities in charge of regulating the drones are the governmental institutions responsible for airspace control. For example, the Directorate of Civil Aeronautics in Chile or the Civil Aeronautics in Colombia.
  • Brazil approved in 2017 a project that allowed the use of drones in political campaigns.
  • In the case of Chile, thanks to the DAN 151 standard, approved in July 2018, it is necessary to obtain authorization from the competent entity in case you want to use drones for public interest purposes.
  • In Colombia, the rule published in the regulatory circular 002/2015, only makes a note about people who use drones recreationally or sports.
  • Uruguay has a more detailed regulation, which includes the weight of the drones and divides them into three categories (Up to 25 kg, between 26 and 260 kg and more than 260 kg). Additionally, it also refers to the private or public use that is given to them.

According to Bergtora and Oliveira, the categorization that Uruguay makes is important because "the less heavy categories are not normally considered as aircraft and, therefore, are outside the orbit of safety regulation. In these cases, the use of drones is treated as a problem of privacy and individual liberties, but not as a public safety problem".

However, the main difficulties with the regulation of drones in South America have been presented in terms of the uses that are given. From this comes a whole discourse regarding private use and the right to private property, but also to the discussion about public safety. Equally, it is important to determine to what extent these uses, both in private and public spheres, represent true solutions, or lend themselves to violations or all types of threats.

LatinAmerican Post | Mariela Ibarra Piedrahita

Translated from "Estos son los límites políticos del uso de drones en América Latina"

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