Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), commonly known as Drones, are all set to be legal to fly in India starting December 1. Owing to security reasons, the blanket ban imposed by the DGCA on October 7, 2014 is set to lift, encouraging development of emerging technology and investments in India. In the last few years, consumer interest has scaled with demand for aerial photography and wide range of commercial applications in India’s B2B sector.
As per new draft issued in November 2017, consumer drones are categorized in five different categories: Nano – less than or equal to 250 grams, micro – greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg, mini - greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg, small - greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg and large – greater than 150 kg. Most consumer drones manufactured today fall under the Nano and Micro categories.
Requirements under the new law
Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) is the set of regulations issued by DGCA to be complied with by all drone pilots in controlled and uncontrolled airspaces. A Unique Identification Number (UIN), which is an equivalent of a number plate will be required for all drones except drones in the Nano category. This will cost a user Rs 1000 and will have to be engraved on a fire-resistant plate emblazoned on the drone. The ‘UIN’ should be readily accessible and legible during visual inspection.
You will also need an ‘Unmanned Aerial Operator Permit’ (UAOP) or Remote Pilot license costing about Rs 25,000 if you are operating above 200 feet. National Technical Research Organization, Aviation Research Centre and Central Intelligence Agency drone operators are exempted from this. Nano category drones are exempted unless operating over 50 feet. The validity is for a period of five years and non-transferrable. Permit renewals will cost Rs 10,000.
The drone will require an insurance cover, which should be of an adequate amount to cover risks, damages or other factors that are posed by operation.
All drones will need to be NPNT compliant (No permission – No Take off), a software program to enable operators to obtain permissions prior to flying. OEM and Drone manufacturers such as DJI, Parrot, Autel, Swellpro will need to comply with this requirement.
How to apply?
Digital Sky – an online platform to be operational from December 1 has been developed for handling UIN, UAOP applications and permission to fly drones in India. Instructions for filling out applications will be available in the manual on the DGCA website homepage.
Drone Operator requirements and eligibility
Every drone operator will have to undergo training at a DGCA approved flying training organization (FTO), has to be 18 years of age and should’ve studied up to a minimum of class 10 in English.
Recreational use – Do’s and Don’ts
A Flight plan will have to be logged through Digital Sky.
Drone operations are restricted to day and within visual line of sight. However, if you are shooting in well-lit enclosed premises using a micro drone up to 200 feet above ground level, DGCA may authorize such operations on a case to case basis, which would come with additional conditions.
Informing the local police 24 hours prior to flying is a must.
A distance of 25 km distance must be maintained from the international border, LOC and Line of Actual Control.
A drone should not be operated within an area of 5 km from airports, 500 mts from perimeter of strategic locations notified by Ministry of Home Affairs or from a perimeter of military installations/ facilities; within 5 km radius from Vijay chowk.
Foreigners are currently not allowed to fly drones in India. For commercial purposes, they need to lease the drone to an Indian entity who in turn will have to obtain a UIN and UAOP from DGCA.
Penalty on Violation
Users risk cancellations or suspension of the UIN/UAOP if regulations are violated and will attract penal action under relevant IPC sections 287, 336, 337, 338 under Aircraft Act 194 and Aircraft Rules.
The Government is working towards technologies to restrict or neutralize rogue drones that are not registered.
Legalizing use of drones is a step in the right direction and implementation will go through a trial and error phase before the process is smooth with fewer challenges.