Flying drones to be legal in India from December 1


Individuals and companies will be able to fly drones from December 1, 2018, in areas other than those barred for security reasons, according to the regulations for use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) released by the civil aviation ministry on Monday.

Operators will be able to apply for permissions and get instant approvals through a portal (Digital Sky Platform) for the use of drones for photography and recreational purposes. The commercial use of drones – as taxis, delivery vehicles, or other services – will not be allowed as of now but a ministry officials said it was open to making changes in the regulations as technology advances. “We want to establish a world-leading drone ecosystem.

These regulations firmly place us among the global leaders. Our policy road map will provide strong impetus to all players in the drone ecosystem. We hope that these initiatives will enable us to create a vibrant new industry,” minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said. The regulations state that no permissions will be needed for flying ‘nano’ drones, which weigh less than 250gm, within the visual range. But operators have been advised to inform the local police beforehand and to not breach the privacy of any individual.

According to the ministry, the Digital Sky Platform will be the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) portal to implement a ‘no permission, no take-off’ (NPNT) policy. “Users will be required to do a one-time registration of drones, pilots and owners. For every flight (except nano drones), users will be required 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. All RPAS, except nano drones and those owned by government intelligence agencies, will have to be registered and issued with a Unique Identification Number (UIN).

If such a registration is not done, it will be a violation of law that will attract penal action. As per the regulations, there are five categories of drones by weight – nano, micro, small, medium and large. The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has identified 23 sites across the country where experiments related to drones will be conducted.

“It is not that we will never allow the use of drones for services. Whenever someone approaches us with a new idea – be it using it for deliveries or agricultural purposes – we will test it at the identified sites and allow the usage in case to case basis,” said a DGCA official who asked not to be named. For flying in controlled airspace, the filing of flight plan and obtaining Air Defence Clearance (ADC) /Flight Information Centre (FIC) number will be necessary.

The regulation defines “no-drone zones” as 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 for flying a drone in a prohibited zone.

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