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Flying In Restricted Airspaces

SkyEye's work takes us into areas with restricted airspace. These high security zones are home to Sri Lanka's critical infrastructure, & as such, the use of drones in these areas is highly monitored & restricted to all but those few licensed operators with work of economic importance to the country.

This article describes the process we go through to fly in these high security zones.

The Process

Our first step towards clearance begins with the preparation & handling of documentation:

1) The first institution we reach out to is the Office of Chief of Defence Staff, located at the BMICH in Colombo. We fill out a form specifying the site address & time of flight, & we include the details of the drone we want to use & the pilots identification information.

The OCDS vets our submission & issue a letter of authorisation. This letter allows us to continue with our application.

2) The OCDS authorisation is sent to the Civil Aviation Authority, along with a CAA flight clearance application form. This form lists the details of the flight, the purpose of the flight, & the details of the drone & pilot. If the location is in a high security area, like the port, the CAA will compel us to take a chaperone along, typically from the Air Force or Presidential Security Division (PSD).

3) Once the CAA gives us the green light for operations, we pay for our flight clearance on the CAA's online portal, & prepare all our documentation.

4) If the airspace in question is restricted due to a high security zone or the proximity of an airport, we use DJI's custom unlocking service to clear the airspace for drone operations. This involves the submission of the OCDS & CAA letters to DJI, along with the serial number of the drone's remote controller. When DJI goes through our documents are verifies them as original, we are cleared to fly in a restricted area.

On The Day Of

Once cleared for commercial operations in a high security zone, there are more steps for us to follow in order to get the drone off the ground.

1) Touch base with the Air Force or PSD chaperone & arrange logistics to deliver him/her to site.

2) Call the nearest police station & inform them of the operations; submit clearance copies if they request it.

3) Contact the air traffic controller (ATC) prior to flight time to be updated on aircraft in the area. The ATC will give us the green light prior to flying.

Why Is This Necessary?

In the interests of both public & national security, & the safe operations of our airports, the CAA & OCDS clearance process weeds out those non-commercial projects or projects of no economic impact to Sri Lanka.

It also maintains the sort of formality that the aviation industry demands of its operators, enforcing rules & etiquette when engaging in any airborne operation. This legitimises the drone services industry, as we operate to standards held as high as the rest of the aviation industry.

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