Step up drone usage

Step up drone usage

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

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The use of technology to create an enabling framework for universal access must be carefully planned and implemented by the Government. One such technological enhancement is Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as drones.

Drones, aircraft without human pilots, have been in operation since the early 1900s. With the digital revolution bringing in tiny microprocessors and abilities for long-distance communication, the role of drones expanded to not only more specialised military operations but also commercial applications. Drones are often loaded with various sensors, such as in-built GPS navigation systems, TV cameras, image intensifiers, radars, infra-red imaging equipment and lasers to help round-the-clock monitoring and targeting.

I believe this is the time for the coordinated use of drones to gain the most benefit for Jamaica; a centralised programme, for public service — perhaps based out of the Jamaica Defense Force or Jamaica Constabulary Force who would deploy, and monitor. This programme could assist in the resolution of many of the issues our nation has to tackle, ones that only modern technology can efficiently resolve. Crime, the most significant inhibitor to Jamaica becoming a modern, high-growth State, is one such concern.

Drones can help to combat petty theft and the tracking of gangs and extortionists. A coordinated drone programme can track crime hot spots, relay data to a central database, and even issue electronic tickets for traffic violations and offences.

Drones would also significantly enhance the numbers of the highly stretched security forces as they can cover much more ground from the air and access communities that have been traditionally challenging and dangerous for security forces to enter. Access to a data-gathering and sharing system would strengthen the surveillance capabilities of our armed forces. Our coastguards could use drones for border protection of our vast coastlines and speed up response to emergencies.

In agriculture, drones could help reduce the stress and losses caused by praedial theft of crops and livestock. Drones could monitor activities in our fields and farms, keeping tabs on crops to determine the best time to plant and schedule reaping. Drones are also capable of spraying crops and monitoring soil health. The bonus is the ability to cover vast acres of land, far quicker than traditional methods.

Land surveying with a drone offers enormous potential to GIS professionals. It is possible to carry out topographic surveys of the same quality as the highly accurate measurements collected by traditional methods, in a fraction of the time and substantially reducing costs of specialists in the field. Jamaica could quickly update its land databases, and ultimately fast-track the issuing of land titles.

There are supporting considerations such as legislation and privacy laws that would require drafting and updating should this technology be utilised. Indications from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) are that this is in hand. Indeed the OPM has said, “New legislation and regulations related to identity management, verification and data sharing will be enacted. The legislation will ensure the protection of personal data. All existing laws related to identity management and storage will be reviewed and amended if deemed necessary. Data sharing agreements will be established among government entities.”

The good news is that other pieces of legislation, such as the Data Protection Act, that will impact any such programme are also being reviewed.

To ensure the seamless sharing of data, upgrading and expansion of the Government's ICT infrastructure would also be required. All core IT systems, databases and ground surveillance systems, such as CCTV and police cameras, must be connected to these central databases.

Centralising these Government operations would ensure that expertise can be developed and leveraged to support critical initiatives across departments and more, whilst reducing the duplication of cost and effort, providing high-quality service to drive the technological growth of our nation.

Gary Simms is project director & technology consultant at Cadence Jamaica. He may be reached at gary@cadencejamaica.com


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