The Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) has been using drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) since last December to draw sections of power lines after the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) permitted its use, under strict interim measures, since official regulations is still being drafted.
BCAA has earlier authorised hydropower projects to operate drones for drawing transmission lines after getting clearance from the relevant agencies and making them demonstrate on the functioning of the drones.
BPC is using drones for the first time to draw sections of transmission lines from Kamichu to Jigmeling along the Tsirang-Wangdue highway.
A superintendent engineer with BPC, Pemba Dukpa, said drones have proved very useful while drawing sections of transmission lines in deep valleys and in areas where crossing a torrential river is a main hurdle. “With the use of drones, we have seen a significant reduction in time to carry out our works and the need to clear forest for such purposes also decreased,” said Pemba Dukpa. “There are also fewer requirements for manpower.”
The maximum payload for current A6 plus hexacopter model is 3 kg.
Drones are equipped with different state of the art technology such as infra-red cameras, GPS and laser. Drones can be controlled by remote control system or a ground cockpit and the proper operation of the drones are monitored on the portable screen by the professional operators.
The director of BCAA, Wangdi Gyaltshen, said that the drafting of the regulations on drone usage has reached the third and the final stage after a consultative meeting with relevant agencies. He said that draft copies have already been sent out to the various stakeholders and that the regulation might be finalised any time soon.
The draft regulation has listed out the sensitive areas were the operation of drones will not be permitted such as in areas within 5 kilometres of airports and airlines and at heights exceeding 90 meters above ground.
Wangdi Gyaltshen said that although BCAA is a regulatory authority it is still a huge challenge for them to monitor unauthorized flying of drones in the country. Therefore, in their upcoming regulation, they will be seeking help from agencies such as the Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Bhutan Army, dzongkhag authorities and local leaders among others.
Since there is every chance that drones might be misused, which can pose serious security threats, Wangdi Gyaltshen said that BCAA’s draft regulation has spelt out restrictive and stringent rules for flying drones.
The draft regulation consists of two parts, one is for the simple operation and the other is for more complex operation.