In the last couple of years, the use of Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), commonly known as “drones”, has seen a huge increase among businesses and knowledge centres in Flanders.
Sent into the air equipped with cameras, drones for purely commercial purposes are still against the law in Belgium. But some companies are ignoring the regulation and blaming the government for its outdated legislation.
Last summer, about 15 enterprises and knowledge institutions using RPAS for civilian purposes launched the Belgian Unmanned Aircraft System Association (BeUAS) to improve communications between the sector and the federal government. The primary goal of the BeUAS is to draft a legal framework adapted to the industry so that the sector can take off in full flight.
Drones are often associated with military services, but the police use RPAS as well – recently a cannabis plantation was spotted in a Limburg cornfield by a drone. Several Flemish institutions, like Ghent University and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (Vito), employ and develop RPAS. The archaeology department of UGhent deploys drones as a new and inexpensive method of taking low-altitude aerial photographs and creating 3D computer models of archaeological sites. Vito is examining the contributions of RPAS in gathering information on many of today’s environmental questions.