All over the world, drones or the Remotely Piloted Aircrafts (RPAs) which are a member of the aviation family are playing a significant role in development. In Ghana, like elsewhere in the world, drones are increasingly used in commercial and civil industries, including photography, research, weather monitoring and other aerial imaging. However, while there exist several opportunities in this sphere, there is a growing concern about lack knowledge of the rules and regulations that govern the purchase and use of unmanned aerial vehicles, particularly in the face of several accident involving drones.
Like the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Ghana has been working to better understand, integrate and regulate RPAs and intends to enforce the regulations for RPAs with effect from September 2016 within the existing Directive to ensure that the operations, owners of drones, users and owners are guided by the relevant laws: the Chicago Convention and the Ghana Civil Aviation Regulations/Directives (GCARs/GCADs). Together, they are to ensure that the introduction of remotely piloted aircrafts into Ghana’s airspace, especially the approach corridor and at aerodromes, in no way increase safety risks to manned aircraft, persons and properties.
GCAA Seeks Public Collaboration
In furtherance to this, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) organized a stakeholder workshop on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) on 5th July, 2016. The platform was used to educate the public on the existing regulatory framework or the Directives. To the GCAA, the safe integration of RPAS into Ghana’s airspace calls for stakeholder understanding of diverse topics such as licensing, medical qualification of remote pilots, technologies to detect and avoid systems, frequency spectrum, separation standards from other aircraft and development of a robust regulatory framework.
The Directive: to what end?
The purpose of the Directives is to supplement the provisions of the Ghana Civil Aviation (Safety) Regulations 2011, LI.2000 in ensuring safe operations of RPAS. All unmanned aircrafts, whether remotely piloted, fully autonomous or combinations thereof, are subject to the provisions of Article 8 of the Chicago Convention and the Ghana Civil Aviation Regulations/Directives (GCARs/GCADs). These requirements apply equally to RPAs operations and are intended to mitigate risk to person and property on the ground and other airspace users. Where differences occur from manned aviation, they are specified in these Directives. If this cannot be achieved, the RPA may be accommodated by being restricted to specific conditions or areas such as segregated airspace or a way from heavily populated areas.
Some of the Directives:
- No person shall control more than one RPA at any given time unless otherwise authorized by the Authority
- No person shall operate RPAs for commercial purposes unless he holds an RPAS operating certification (ROC) issues by the Authority
- Operations of RPAs are forbidden from flying in restricted, prohibited, dangerous areas and special use areas (SUA) as published in the Ghana Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP)
- Operators shall comply with the appropriate noise control, emissions, and private regulations
Applicability of the Directives:
The Directives apply to:
- the operations of unmanned aircrafts, model aircraft, and all unmanned aircraft whether remotely piloted, fully autonomous or combinations thereof.
- aerial work such as the use of aircraft for specialized services in agriculture, construction, photography, surveying observation and patrol, search and rescue, and aerial advertisement.
The Directive forbids the operation of drones for the carriage of goods, night and cross border operations and operations in areas of high Radio Frequency transmissions without special authorization from Authority.
Further, all operators need certification and air worthiness approvals and must observe implementation standards such as location and height of an obstruction that could hinder launch and recovery, destroying and proximity of overflight traffic, emergency landing and ditching location and duties of the remote pilot-command (PIC).
The GCAA is concerned with the safety in the operations of RPAS, particularly, the protection of persons and property from mid-air collisions (MACs), accidents and incidents involving RPAs. It is expected that the application of the directives in the operations of the remotely piloted Aircrafts operators in Ghana’ Airspace system will minimize hazards to persons, property or other aircrafts. This however, requires the compliance and the collaboration of the public, particularly, drone owners and operators to achieve.