Drones Catch Polluters in Taiwan

E213WUA6H_2015資料照片_copy1The Environmental Protection Bureau of Taichung in central Taiwan has decided to deploy cameras attached to drones in its efforts to catch those damaging air quality and jeopardizing road traffic safety by burning dry straw on open ground.

It will be the first time the city has used this form of technology to catch polluters after patrol vehicles on the ground often fail to accomplish the task, bureau officials said.

The drones can collect immediate data that can be relayed to ground patrols, which can then rush to the crime scene in time to apprehend the culprits, the officials added.

Drones for aerial photography have become more and more popular in Taiwan since the 2013 documentary, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above, which showed the world the beauty of Taiwan from different angles and from different altitudes and exposed a number of environmental abuses in the country.

Online store operators estimate that the volume of camera-equipped drones sold so far this year in Taiwan is eight times that of the same period of last year, the national United Daily News reported Monday.

The report cited Hsu Ting-chang, owner of the Miaoli county-based aerial photography company TNT (Take New Taiwan) Fly, as saying that when he began his aerial photography career three years ago, there were only a handful of around 20 competitors in the emerging market in Taiwan.

Last year, he found the number of professional photographers competing for market share against him has grown to over 100, Hsu told the newspaper. “Competition is drastic,” he said.

With the relevant technology maturing, drones for aerial photography can now be deployed for a wide spectrum of tasks, ranging from assisting police in chasing fugitives, helping scientists with collecting data in remote places such as craters, to spreading pesticide on farmland from the air, according to Tsai Wen-chen, a manager at Thunder Tiger, a Taichung-based company specializing in developing and fabricating remote-controlled vehicles.

However, the increasing popularity of drones for aerial photography has triggered safety and privacy concerns because legally they are in a grey area.

Taiwan’s existing Civil Aviation Act merely sets a ban on remote control aircraft in “restricted areas,” military bases and places surrounding an airport. Violators are subject to fines of up to NT$1.5 million (US$49,000).

Without regulations governing drone flight areas and ranges, law enforcement authorities are often unable to stem privacy offenses and accidents caused by the unmanned aircraft, said Lai Wei-hsiang, a professor in aeronautics and astronautics in southern Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University.

Even though they fly at relatively low altitudes and at low speeds, drones can cause safety problems, he said, adding that several years ago, an unmanned aerial vehicle accidentally flew into a private residence, setting it on fire after an explosion.

There must be laws that stipulate the permitted air space for drones and the qualifications of the people operating the remote control systems, Lai was cited by the daily as saying.


Source: Want China Times

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