Aviation sector– to assist with border security; regulating local dronesA new division is scheduled to come on stream at the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), with the regulator requesting money ahead of the 2018 budget for a new unit to not only oversee drone usage in Guyana, but to aid in border security.Following the discovery of illegal airstrips and planes at different hinterland locations, Government had announced its intention to ramp up patrols in the interior. It has long been argued that the vastness of the terrain and the porousness of the borders have cause some difficulties in manning the points of entry. According to GCAA Director General Egbert Field, the drone unit under the control of his agency will assist the Government in this mandate.For this reason, the authority has included the unit in its 2018 budget proposal to the Finance Ministry.A specialised drone outfitted to do surveillance“We’re setting up a new unit, a drones unit,” Field related. “And that drones unit, as you must have seen, the Government is embarking on drone operations in order to patrol the hinterland. The authority is taking its cue, and being proactive.”He noted that the GCAA would have to go on an employment drive to fill vacancies in the unit. According to the Director, the GCAA is currently grappling with a human resource shortage of qualified personnel.“Because we’ll have to register drones, give approvals for flights….also certify the persons flying drones. And my inspectors are really stretched. But we are employing individuals who are not that qualified — like an inspector — into this unit, (and they) will be able to handle this kind of work.”“The ones the Government will be looking at are the specialized drones. We will be registering drones; every drone. Every drone that comes to Guyana will have to be registered, and get the necessary approval to fly in areas,” he explained.According to Field, drones are becoming a growing industry within the aviation sector, with a plethora of purposes, such as mapping and surveillance. As a result, the authority is building its capacity to not only regulate the industry, but also assist the Government in its hinterland patrol.In addition to the money for the unit sought from the budget, which is due in November of this year, Field stated that increasing remuneration packages for his staff are on the budgetary agenda.In 2016, an illegal aircraft had been discovered near Yupukari, Region Nine. According to the Government, a number of recommendations from a subsequent Commission of Inquiry into that discovery have already been introduced.Last month, a twin-engine Beechcraft was discovered in Region Nine. It was registered to Banco Brandesco — one of Brazil’s largest banks. No trace of narcotics was found on the plane, but identification cards of Venezuelan and Brazilian nationals were discovered on board.The twin engine Beechcraft aircraft discovered in Region Nine last monthAn illegal airstrip was also unearthed about five kilometres west of Santa Fe, Rupununi, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) by members of the Guyana Defence Force on August 5.Border security planIn the wake of these discoveries, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had announced that a National Border Security Plan will be developed. The minister also shared other aspects of the long term plan, the implementation of which will be guided by financial and other factors.A major aspect of this plan, according to the Minister, is to encourage residents to report suspicious activity into the network. A major part of this plan, Harmon had stated, would involve the use of technology such as drones to improve aerial patrols.“On a longer term, the intention basically is to cover those areas by aerial activity: by the use of drones, by the use of fixed-wing aircraft on a regular basis, so that you can have a better understanding as to what is happening in between the fixed locations of the police and the army,” he explained.“As a result of this, we are likely to see some additional type of deployment in that area from the GDF. We are also looking at the technology which you use to ensure that if there is an (aircraft) landing, the vibrations which take place can be communicated. These are technological things we are exploring,” Harmon explained.