The Ministry of Civil Aviation has recently unveiled the new drone policy and legalised the use and operation of drones in India from December 1, 2018.
So far, the use of drones in India had been prohibited due to privacy and security concerns.
Last year in November, the government had released the draft civil aviation requirements for permitting operation of civil drones. The National Drone Policy, 2018 has thus been unveiled after taking into consideration the comments and feedback from various stakeholders.
Drones are commonly used in sectors such as e-commerce, agriculture, mining, power and infrastructure, defence and military, film shooting and photography. However, with new regulations, more sectors will explore drones now.
Here is a look at the policy in detail:
What are drones?
Remotely-piloted aircraft, also known as ‘drone,’ is an unmanned aircraft, which is piloted from a remote pilot station. Drone, its associated remote pilot station(s), command and control links and other components form a remotely-piloted aircraft station.
Category of drones
Drones are classified in terms of their maximum take-off weight including the payload, in the following manner:
- Nano – Less than or equal to 250 grams;
- Micro – Greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg;
- Small – Greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg;
- Medium – Greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg;
- Large – Greater than 150 kg.
As per the policy, drones can be locally-procured or imported into India.
Regulatory approvals required
Operating drones in India will require an array of regulatory approvals, clearances, a unique identification number (UIN), unmanned aircraft operator permit (UAOP) and an oversight by various government agencies such as:
- import clearance (other than for nano drone) from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and import license from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade;
- Equipment type approval (ETA) from the Department of Telecommunication for operating in de-licensed frequency band(s);
- Security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs (except in case of Government firms);
- Permission of aerial survey on a case-to-case basis from the Ministry of Defence;
- Air defence clearance and monitoring of drone movements by the Indian Air Force;
- Approval of security programme by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security;
- Flight plan approval and monitoring of drone movements by the Airport Authority of India;
- Enforcement of penal provisions and certain permissions provisions by the local police office.
All drones, other than in the nano category, will have to apply to DGCA for import clearance and based on that Directorate General of Foreign Trade will issue license for import of drones.
Eligibility for UIN registration
Owing to the security concerns, the government has levied a condition of availing a unique identification number (UIN) for each Indian national or an Indian entity to operate drones in the country.
“No foreign national or foreign entity will be granted a UIN and cannot operate drones in India. However, they can lease RPAS (drones) to an Indian entity,” the drone policy said.
As per the civil aviation requirements, UIN will be granted only where the RPAS is wholly owned by:
(a) a citizen of India;
(b) GOI or state governments, or a company owned or controlled by these governments;
(c) an Indian company or body corporate, which (i) has its principal place of business within India, (ii) its chairman and at least 2/3rd of board of directors are citizens of India, and (iii) its substantial ownership and effective control is vested with Indian nationals; or
(d) a company or corporation registered outside India, only if it has licensed the RPAS to any organisation set out in (b) or (c) above.
However, UIN is not required for operating:
Drones in nano category intended to fly up to 50 feet (15 m) above ground level in uncontrolled airspace/ enclosed premises for commercial/recreational/R&D purposes are exempted from obtaining UIN; and
Drones owned/operated by the National Technical Research Organization, Aviation Research Centre and Central Intelligence agencies are also exempted from obtaining UIN.
How to apply for UIN/UAOP
All applications for grant of UIN/ UAOP, as applicable, will be processed through an online platform, called Digital Sky Platform. The application must be made at least 7 working days prior to the commencement of the drone operations on the Digital Sky Platform. A copy of the UAOP will be sent to other regulatory agencies.
Users will be required to do a one-time registration of their drones, pilots, and owners. For every flight (exempted for the nano category), users will be required to ask for permission to fly on a mobile app and an automated process will permit or deny the request instantly.
How can drones be used in India?
All drone operations must be conducted only in day-time, within visual line of sight and a maximum of 400 ft altitude. Drone operator must be 18 years of age, must have passed 10th exam in English, and should have undergone ground and practical training.
He/She is responsible for the safe custody, security and access control of the drones. All the operators must inform the local police authorities one day prior to the commencement of the operations.
They must obtain insurance for any liability/damage to the third party from any accident or incident.
Restrictions on the drone policy
Drones will not be permitted to operate in sensitive areas, e.g. near airports, international borders /Line of Control and eco-sensitive zones.
Drones should not discharge or drop substances unless specifically permitted in the UAOP, nor should they transport any hazardous materials, animal or humans unless permitted. Any sale or disposal of drones (issued with UIN) will need prior permission of DGCA. Breach of rules may result in penal actions under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Further, actions under the Aircraft Act, 1934 and rules may be taken for non-compliances.