weDrone Forum – Opportunities, Challenges and Risks discussed

HALBAN – The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) has held the “weDrone – Business Forum” at its campus in Halban today. The forum was conducted under the auspices of Dr. Mohammed Nasser Ali Al-Zaabi, CEO of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA). The one-day forum brought together a large number of experts and scientists from the international and local drone sector as well as local businesses that are interested in introducing drones for their operations in Oman. The forum was held at GUtech for the second time and it was organized in cooperation with the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) and the local company Brave Hawks LLC.

According to Prof. Dr. Nafaa Jabeur from GUtech’s Department of Computer Sciences and Director of Research at GUtech, the forum aimed to connect different stakeholders in order to create awareness about the legal framework, the space management and the inspection and surveillance of drone technologies. Drones are used for example for real time analysis to monitor traffic control including traffic jams and accidents as well as to monitor construction sites, mining operations or agricultural yields.

With increased mobility worldwide, the challenge is to integrate drone technologies into the air traffic and to comply with various safety regulations. Currently, it is prohibited to use drones for private purpose in Oman. According to Eng. Mubarak Al Farsi from PACA, the use of photographic aircrafts is prohibited. UNIFly, an engineering software company from Belgium has developed a software that helps to deploy drones in safe environments. Koen Meuleman, Founder and Chief Financial Operator of UNIFly showcased the software that is already applied in several European countries to the audience. Meuleman said that the software helps to monitor the flight traffic in real time to reach out to the community and to manage the access of the airspace.

However, there are several threats and ethical issues related to the use of drones, such as breaching personal privacy, flying a drone over crowded places is illegal and endangering the natural environment such as birds. “We have been using drones since 2013. Their use saves us time and costs. We use them in the interior of Oman for surveying, geological mapping and for oil and gas inspections.” said Usman Jamil, Manager of GIS and 3D Data Management at Dawood Engineering Consultancy. Similarly, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has been using drones in the past ten years for pipeline and flare inspections, for project development and for monitoring their oil and gas operations, said Khadija Al Aisari, Head of Remote Sensing at PDO. According to Hans Van Calster and Kevin Wippermann, from Duqm Port the port will be developed into a ‘Smart Port’ in the next years, using drones for its overall operations.

To promote research and development between universities and the drone industry, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between GUtech, Hasselt University (Belgium) and the companies Brave Hawks (Oman) and Drone Matrix (Belgium). Given the introduction phase of the use of drones in Oman, Prof. Dr. Geert Wets, Director of the Mobility Institute at Hasselt University said that it is important to conduct research case-studies along with the development of the drone sector in Oman. “Through our research projects we wish to further collaborate with the government, businesses and the education sector to to create joint competencies for the production and a responsible use of drones in Oman and in the region,” said Prof. Dr. Nafaa Jabeur.

 

 

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