We all buy things online, don’t we? How much we want our online deliveries to be delivered to us as soon as possible, maybe within hours of us placing an order. Amazon is primarily our top choice when it comes to online e-commerce sites and when we heard that 7-Eleven, an international chain of convenience stores just made the first commercial delivery by drone in the US, the promises of Amazon making future deliveries within 30 minutes at our doorstep through Amazon Prime Air seemed to be happening anytime soon. But alas, not just yet. India’s Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) banned the civil use of drones in 2014 and though regulations regarding the civil use of drones have been proposed, they are yet to be implemented.
- What are drones? – Drones are scientifically known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and they are aircrafts without a human pilot aboard. They may be operated under a remote control by a human operator or may be fully controlled by computers. Compared to the aircrafts which have a human pilot, UAVs are often preferred for missions which are considered to be highly dirty and dangerous for humans. They were originally created to be used for military operations but now their use is expanding over to commercial, scientific, agricultural, recreational and other such areas including policing, surveillance,, aerial photography, drone racing and product deliveries. Civilian drones have now largely outnumbered military drones.
- Drone regulations in India– In April 2016, India’s civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued draft guidelines for the regulation of drones in India. They made draft guidelines which proposed a framework to regulate the civil and commercial use of drones in India. The issuance of draft guidelines is very crucial at this point of time as it provides an important opportunity for industrial stakeholders to offer their opinion in this regard. The DGCA had banned the use of civil use of drones back in 2014, however in spite of that drones are becoming very popular and are being rampantly used in India. The ban was met with strong opposition. They are easily available on the Internet also. The movie industry is one of the largest industries to use drones. They use drones to capture aerial views which are otherwise difficult to capture by ordinary cameras. Drones are also being used by real estate companies and wedding/event management companies and in surveys, commercial photography, calculating and assessing the damage done to property and life in the event of natural calamities.
- Draft Guidelines– The DGCA has acknowledged that the constructive use of drones in several areas of work and for numerous purposes like overseeing of critical infrastructure, example- power plants, pipelines and ports, and for aerial mapping in the agriculture and wildlife sector and in the event of a natural calamity in the Preamble of the Draft Guidelines.
Some of the highlights of the DGCA Draft Guidelines are:
I. General Guidelines:-
- These guidelines propose to reverse the ban imposed on the civil use of drones and seek to regulate the use of drones for civil and commercial uses.
- They propose to license the operator and unmanned aerial system (UAS) or drones made for civil use.
- The guidelines classify drones into four categories-
Micro Less than 2kgs
Mini Greater than 2kgs but less than 20kgs
Small More than 20kgs, less than 150kgs
Large Greater than 150kgs
II. Guidelines regarding registration requirements:-
- Any drone wanting to be operated in India will have to be registered and issued a Unique Identification Number by the DGCA. They will then be provided with a radio frequency tag.
- DGCA will give permission to civil operations by drones flying at or above 200 feet above ground level in uncontrolled airspace.
- Persons or companies wanting to engage in the civil usage of drones will require authorization to engage in such activity in the form of an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) issued by the DGCA.
- The drones’ operators will need to file a flight plan and acquire additional approvals from the local Air Traffic Services (ATS) unit and local district commissioner.
- Security clearance from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) is needed.
- The drone operator will have to intimate the local ATS unit, BCAS, aerodrome operator and the local administration before starting its operations.
- In case of termination or cancellation of the operations, providing of such knowledge is also required.
- Permit given will be valid for 2 years and renewals will need requisite clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs and BCAS.
- Also, Unique Identification Number would be given only to a natural person who is a citizen of India or to a body of corporate– (a) registered in India and its principle place of business is within India (b) whose chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors are citizens of India (c) whose substantial ownership and control is with Indian nationals.
III. Guidelines regarding conditions of operations:-
- Drones cannot be flown over restricted areas, example- nuclear stations, military facilities, within 30kms radius of New Delhi and within 50 kms of India’s international borders.
- Drones will have to fly within 500m of visual line of sight for the full length of the flight.
- Drones can be operated only during daylight when the ground visibility is 5kms and surface winds do not exceed 20 knots.
- Drones cannot be launched when there are rainfall or storm warnings.
- Drones flying below 200feet above ground level in uncontrolled airspace and drones described as drones without payload created solely for the purpose of recreational activities will be exempted from having to obtain an UAOP registration.
- In case of commercial drones, delivery service companies are not allowed to drop substances unless they are specifically authorized to do so.
- Drones are also not permitted to carry dangerous goods and animal/human payloads.