RAWALPINDI: In order to avoid any untoward incident, the commissioner of Rawalpindi division has requested the Punjab government to impose Section 144 banning drone activities in the funnel area falling within the approach path of flights to Islamabad International Airport (IIA).

On the other hand, Regional Police Officer (RPO) Nasir Mehmood Satti directed the city police officer (CPO) Rawalpindi and the district police officer (DPO) of Attock - as part of the airport falls in the limit of Attock - to launch an operation against anyone found involved in drone activities.

The airport’s management had earlier asked the police and the district administration of Rawalpindi to ban drone activities. The directives were issued after a UN aircraft from Kabul to Islamabad came across a drone flying at about 3,400 feet and eight nautical miles from the runway of IIA on Jan 16, 2023.

According to the airport management, the area where the drone was flying had been identified to be Bahria Town Phase VIII in Rawalpindi.

In a letter to the Punjab Home Department, the commissioner Rawalpindi stated that it had been conveyed to him by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that laser light incidents were among the foremost flight safety hazards for civil aviation operations as these posed serious risks to pilot’s eyes, hence endangering flight safety especially during critical phase of landing and take-off.

The district administration requested the Punjab government to allow them to impose Section 144 prohibiting drone activities in the funnel areas falling within the approach path of flights to avoid any untoward incident.

When contacted, Rawalpindi Commissioner Saqib Mannan told Dawn that a request for imposition of Section 144 had been sent to the Punjab Home Department.

“Coordination between the police and CAA has been made to take prompt action against drone activities,” said the commissioner.

On the other hand, RPO Nasir Mehmood Satti said following CAA’s intimation he had directed the CPO Rawalpindi and the DPO Attock to launch an operation against such activities.

When asked how the police will trace a person flashing laser light towards an aircraft and flying a drone, he said: “The police will launch a massive operation at night within the next few days to trace such activities.”

IIA Chief Operating Officer Syed Aftab Ali Shah Gilani had sought help from the RPO and the commissioner after a second complaint of flight hazard was received within a month.

On Jan 8, the pilot of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Dubai reported that a green laser light was pointed towards the aircraft as it positioned to land at runway 28L, six NM away from the airport.

The airport chief said drones not only posed a threat of collision with aircraft but also caused security concerns if equipped with surveillance gadgets or improvised explosive devices.

The airport management had also suggested enforcing Section 144 on drone activities around the airport.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2023

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