En­vi­ron­ment agency an­nounces use of drones to catch air qual­ity of­fend­ers

The China Post - - LOCAL -

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bureau of the Taichung City gov­ern­ment de­cided last Mon­day to de­ploy cam­era 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.

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 mass-cir­cu­la­tion 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 Co., 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 Wenchen, 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 gray 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$48,796).

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 at Na­tional Cheng Kung Univer­sity.

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