On Monday, the aviation ministry issued the drone policy which allows commercial use of drones (unmanned aircraft) across sectors such as agriculture, health and disaster relief from December 1. However delivery of payload, including food items, would not be allowed as of now, but the govt says this condition may be relaxed in the future as technology advances.
Companies and individual drone operations will be limited to fly drones only during daytime and flying are subject to the stipulation that the drone remains in the line of sight of the person using it which usually would be 450 metres. Drone operators will get instant approvals through a Digital Sky Platform, the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) portal for the use of drones for picture-taking and recreational purposes. Drones have been divided into five categories, depending on their weight.
The least is the nano category which includes drones weighing up to 250 grams and moving up to large that can be as heavy as 150 kg. Aside from the first two categories of nano and micro (over 250 grams to 2 kg) which are mostly used by children as toys that need no permission, all other drone users need to be registered and should have a unique identification number (UIN). Individuals who seek drone licences must be over 18 years and be at least tenth pass with knowledge of English.
“Users will be asked to do a one-time registration of drones, pilots and owners. For every flight (except nano drones), users will be compelled to ask for permission to fly through a mobile app, and an automated process will permit or deny the request instantly. The UTM operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on the approved flight paths,” a ministry official said.
For operating in controlled airspace, the filing of the flight plan and receiving Air Defence Clearance (ADC) /Flight Information Centre (FIC) number will be mandatory. The ordinance defines “no-drone zones” like areas around airports, near the international border, Vijay Chowk in New Delhi, state secretariat complexes in state capitals, and strategic locations and vital military installations. A case under the Indian Penal Code can be filed if users fly drones in a prohibited zone.
The govt has recognised 23 sites across the country where the drone tech will be put to great use to evaluate its further usage. A drone task force under chairmanship will provide draft recommendations for drone Regulations 2.0. The govt also said it will allow the use of drones within the line of sight for now and will form a task force that would in the future work towards approving the use of drones for beyond the line of sight.
As per the new drone policy finalised by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, flying of drones is set to become legal in India on December 1, 2018. Currently, flying of drones needs prior permission from the government authorities is illegal for civilian purposes.
Drones are a more than $1 billion market and Indian aviation is ready to unlock this market in the country. India is known for its cost-effective technology and can become a global leader in drone technology innovations.