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Conference Report:
The international conference on unmanned aircraft systems was successfully conducted on 30 April 2022 by the joint efforts of Centre for Research in Air and Space Law (‘CRASL’), MNLU Mumbai and Centre of Aviation and Space Law (‘CASL’), WBNUJS. CRASL consistently engages in policy discourse as a forum for the exchange of ideas on the international law applicable to implementing international air and space law. Similarly, CASL is an academic Centre that intends to explore, analyze and critique the legal developments in the aviation, space and allied industries. The conference marked the participation of esteemed resource persons from different corners of the world, academicians, scholars, space law practitioners as well as students. The goals of the conference were to initiate pertinent discussions on the advent of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (‘UAVs’) and their increasing civil and military applications across the globe. The session served as a platform for a comprehensive discussion on the lacunas of contemporary legislations on drones and to find solutions to various challenges like liability in cases of violation of international law, employment of UAVs for mass surveillance, conduction of military attacks, etc. 

The conference began with a welcome address delivered by Mr. Adithya A. Variath, Co-ordinator of the CRASL, MNLU Mumbai, which was followed by the patron’s address from Prof. (Dr.) Dilip Ukey, Vice-Chancellor of MNLU, Mumbai and Prof. (Dr.) N.K. Chakrabarti, Vice Chancellor of WBNUJS. Subsequently, a detailed yet succinct inaugural address was delivered by Prof. (Dr.) Sandeepa Bhat, the director of CASL, WBNUJS on ‘UAVs and Legal Challenges’. Stress was laid upon the imminent need of research into the recent technological advancements in the arena of UAVs and the emanating security challenges and legal implications of an unbalanced advancement of drone technology across various nations. Mr. Amana Khare, Research Assistant at MNLU Mumbai concluded the inaugural session by delivering a warm vote of thanks to the organizers, the participants and resource persons and the audience attending the session. 

Following the inaugural session, Dr. Attila Sipos, Asst. Prof. of Law at the University of Sarjah, UAE commenced the technical session with an in depth discussion on the ‘Modernization of the Chicago Convention: New Norms on UAV’. Utilizing his years of professional insight, knowledge and experience gained as a result of his tenure at the International Civil Aviation Organization (‘ICAO’), Dr. Sipos eloquently described the need of amending the Chicago convention which, even though drafted with commendable prudence, requires accounting for the development that occurred in the past six decades, since the convention was drafted. Prof. Anis Bajrektarevic, Professor, International Law & Global Pol. Studies, Austria and Captain Rehan van Tonder, Chief Executive Officer, Shift Aviation Dubai followed Dr. Sipos’ discussion and delved into the topic ‘Eurasian Aviation and Transport Corridors in Times of Double Crisis (Health/Security)’. Prof. Ronald Schnitker, Aviation Lawyer, Schnitker Law Practice, Netherlands spoke after this in an engaging effort to emphasize upon the revolution brought in the sphere of aviation laws as an aftermath of the rising application of drones in daily operations. Technical session - I, similar to the other four technical sessions that followed, ended with an engaging Q & A session of fifteen minutes. 

Mr. Sajal Sharma, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (‘UPES’) inaugurated Technical Session - II through a captivating presentation on the limitations of regulating the transfer of UAVs through the rules established under the Missile Technology Control Regime (‘MTCR’) and the possible reforms in the same. It was followed by Jennifer Ghoshray, Sr. Researcher at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (USA) who presented a comprehensive paper on the topic ‘Domestic Deployment of Drones in India: A Reality Check From Lessons Learned Analyzing Constitutional, Ethical, And Philosophical Dimensions’. The third and last presentation of the second session was delivered by Mr. Rohit Bokil, assistant professor at ILS Law College, Pune. Mr. Bokil initiated an appealing discussion on the humanitarian dilemma posed by the targeted killings coordinated by applying UAVs. 

Technical Session – III was set in motion by Dr. Vincent Correia, Prof. of Public Law at the Université Paris-Saclay, France and visiting professor at the International Institute of Air and Space Law (IIASL) of the Leiden University, the Netherlands, dealt, in depth, with the legal constraints and philosophical divergences of sharing airspace between manned and unmanned aircraft. Subsequently, Dr. Anna Masuti, Prof. of Air & Space Law, University of Bologna, Italy & Mr. Eugenia Fedeli, R & D Manager, RFI, Italy jointly engaged in an intriguing session on the ‘Railway Inspection and Monitoring Using Drone Technology’. The resource persons then engaged in an inviting Q & A session, thus answering the relevant and interesting queries raised by the audience. 

Dr. Amit Anand from Lancaster University, UK started off technical session – IV with his interesting presentation on the Use of Armed Drones for Extraterritorial Targeted Killings and a review of US Drone Policies since 9/11. His session was followed by the presentation of Kritika Ramya, Ph.D. Scholar at National Law University, Jodhpur on the topic ‘Eye In The Sky: Analyzing The Civilian Impact Of Signature Strikes’ under which she analyzed the recent rise in drone attacks and its impact on the general population. Concluding the fourth technical session, Prof. Debabrata Roy from ICFAI University, Tripura engaged the audience through his presentation on the topic ‘Future of Drones in India: Drone Regulations 2021 and more’. Mr. Roy discussed the development of UAVs in India and the recent legislations on the same, along with an in depth analysis of the contemporary flaws and the potential policies to overcome them. 

The last session, technical session – V was inaugurated by Jessica Los Banos, Lecturer of Law at the Universitas Pelita Harapan, Indonesia and a member of the Philippine Bar and the International Institute of Space Law. She discussed the legal issues and commercial prospects in the aftermath of enabling a drone-driven application in the Philippines and other developing economies across the globe, thus offering a unique perspective of socio-economic utility of UAVs. Subsequently, Prof. Mia Wouters, Partner GDS Advocaten, Belgium spoke on Europe’s road map of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems – U space. The session ended with a ten minute long concluding address in appreciation of the presenters and the audience. 

As a result, each presentation at this conference was unique, and each participant gained an in-depth understanding of many aspects of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and improvements in related technologies, particularly from a legal standpoint. Every session included a dedicated fifteen-minute question and answer period, which was found to be highly engaging and fruitful, with participants raising excellent questions and experienced resource individuals replying to them. Overall, the conference was a huge success in terms of reaching out to and incorporating diverse stakeholders and the ensuing scholarship would undoubtedly make an essential contribution to the current scholarship and regulation across countries.


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