Penalty for unauthorized use, ownership of drone sought

SENATOR Aquilino Pimentel III is seeking to penalize private individuals for unauthorized ownership and operation of drones for recreational or commercial purposes.

Pimentel said   drones are used for photography, to increase crop production and to conduct surveillance and law enforcement operations.

Just recently, United Parcel Service (UPS), an American multinational package delivery and supply chain management, was granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a “drone airline.”

“With this ubiquity, comes the need for regulation,” explained Pimentel in filing Senate Bill No. 1098 or an “Act Regulating the ownership and Operation of Drones by Private Persons.”

“The same drones that are used for recreational and commercial purposes might be exploited by terrorists, used to violate rights, or could pose a hazard to aircraft,” he stressed.

The senator cited the drone attacks claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels that struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia, damaging facilities that process the vast majority of the country’s crude output and raising the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies.

Pimentel said he first filed the measure during the previous Congress “to ensure public safety.”

SBN 1098 seeks to regulates only drones purchased, owned and operated by private persons, whether used for hobby or commercial purposes, and does not cover use of drones by the government.

For regulation purposes, the bill authorizes the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is authorized to classify drones into types.

Only a registered commercial drone owner may apply for a permit to operate, which shall be issued periodically only upon proof that the owner qualifies for a radio operator’s certificate of proficiency; has been awarded a passing rating in an aviation license theory examination; has completed a training course in the operation of the type of drone that will be operated; has at least five hours of experience operating drones outside of controlled airspace; has valid insurance over the drone; and has not incurred any violations for drone ownership or use in the five years immediately preceding an application for permit.

The CAAP is authorized to prohibit the use of drones, whether for hobbyist or commercial use or both, in any part of the Philippines, whether permanently or for a designated period of time, subject to notice that must be published in at least two newspapers of national circulation.

The notice must clearly delineate the no-drone zone and must be published at least three weeks prior to the effectivity of the prohibition. Notice can only be foregone in emergency situations, as determined by the CAAP.

The bill requires all drone owners, whether the drones are for hobbyist or commercial use, are required to periodically register themselves and their drones with the CAAP’s Public Safety and Security Command Center.

Failure to register a drone and its owner shall result in the confiscation of the drone by the CAAP. Operating a drone for commercial purposes without a permit shall result in the confiscation of the drone and a fine between P50,000 and P100,000.

Any violation of the general safety regulations and restrictions on drone usage shall result in a fine between P100,000 and P500,000, without prejudice to any separate civil or criminal charges that may be brought against the drone owner and/or operator for any injury or damage resulting from the violation.

SBN 1098 was referred to the Committees on Public Services and Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship  last October 2.