Ruwantissa Abeyratne – Regulating Drones in a Digital World

DIRITTO E POLITICA DEI TRASPORTI (ISSN 2612-5056), II/2019, p. 210 – 220

Abstract. Regulating Drones in a Digital World. ICAO’s third symposium on drones titled DRONE ENABLE/3 with the theme Facilitating Future Innovation was held from 2 to 14 November 2019 in Montréal, Canada. The symposium brought together key stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and international organizations active in the
unmanned aviation sector to exchange research, best practices, lessons learned and respective challenges. Although the symposium offered much thought on technical issues such as aircraft registries and information management with some focus on cyber issues, there was a conspicuous absence of any discussion of legal and regulatory issues pertaining to pilotless aircraft that could be fully or partially automated in the future. Perhaps the legalities were not discussed at the symposium for the reason that elsewhere in ICAO, at the 39th Session of ICAO’s Assembly in 2016, many States requested that ICAO develop a practical regulatory framework for national UAS activities, in addition to the standards it was already developing for international operations. Furthermore, the Agenda of items in the Work
Programme of the Legal Committee of the Council of ICAO for its 37th session comprised inter alia the study of legal issues relating to remotely piloted aircraft. The above notwithstanding, this legal lacuna brings to bear the compelling need to address the increasing issues emerging from rapidly proliferating drones in the skies and how to develop a global “rule book” for pilotless aircraft in the digital world of today. This article does some “scenario planning” as to what might be the issues that could form discussions in the Legal Committee, focusing on some already existing legal and regulatory provisions pertaining to the subject.