India now has a defined policy on flying drones or unmanned/remotely operated aircrafts. The policy and the guidelines have been finalized by the Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA). This would mean that private operators could now use drones for various purposes and applications. These include agriculture, disaster relief, health and so on, but there are restrictions as well.
One sector, eagerly awaiting these guidelines, namely food delivery companies and ecommerce companies would be disappointed since they will not be permitted to use the drones to make last mile deliveries to their customers for now. These regulations come into effect from December 1 this year.
The operators of drones will have to make an online registration and obtain a Unique ID before they start using the drones. There is also the restriction that a drone should be within the visual sight of 450 metres.
Five categories of drones have been drawn out from the smallest (nano) ones being those less than 250 grams and the largest ones those that weigh more than 150 kgs.
The new guidelines prohibit operating autonomous aircraft without any permission or UIN.
Some categories of drones have been exempted from the registration process. Only the government-owned drones and nano drones are being exempted from this registration process. These include government-owned drones, nano drones, those that weigh less than or equal to 250 grams and operating below 50 feet and for the micro category, which are drones weighing between 250g and 2kg and operating below 200 feet.
Educational institutes that use drones for teaching, aerial photography and recreational purposes don’t have to apple for a UIN and those flying them will be fully responsible for the operations and safety of the drone. However, the guidelines state that the local police will have to be informed.
The other major restriction is security related, which means no drones will be permitted close to the international borders and the coast line, key security installations and places like Vijay Chowk in Delhi and state secretariat buildings.
Flying over densely populate areas and places that could affect public safety will require prior approval. Flying beyond 500 metres into the sea from a coastline is also prohibited.
The guidelines also say that a drone cannot be flown from any moving platform such as a moving vehicle, ship, etc.
The Minister for Civil Aviation and MoS in the Ministry Suresh Prabhu and Jayant Sinha released the guidelines for drones and said there is ample scope for the use of these services in the areas of disaster relief, surveillance, security monitoring, precision agriculture and precision logistics.
The Ministry has constituted a task force under the MoS to keep track of the way the regulations are adopted by the private players and to further finetune the guidelines where necessary. 23 sites across the country have been identified where the use of the drones will be studied in an exhaustive manner and the learnings carried to other activities.
Under the new policy guidelines, a digital sky platform has been created keeping the local police force in the loop and this site can be used by the drone operators to carryout online registration of their machines and to obtain the UIDs. A ‘no permission no take off’ feature will have to be incorporated in the drones by the manufacturers, the DGCA guideline mandates and those drones failing to comply can be seized by the law enforcement.