EYE IN THE SKY: INDIA’S DRONE POLICY
Flying a drone is lawful in India, according to India’s national aviation body, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, however, there are some laws and regulations. Not applying drone laws in India causes a lot of issues. Some people argued that it is an infringement of their privacy as the drone is flown over their property invading their privacy and on the contrary others argue that the drone is their property and they have the liberty to fly it wherever they want as they are not trespassing any one’s land and the sky above the land is not a personal property of anyone. Hence to make these things clear Drone policy was amended and some laws were set for the easement of use of drones.
On August 27, 2018, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation issued the country’s first Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for drones, which would take effect on December 1, 2018.
Special Considerations for Travel
Drones are now prohibited in India for foreigners. They must lease the drone to an Indian firm for commercial purposes, which will get a Unique Identification Number (UIN) and UAOP from the DGCA.
General guidelines for flying a drone in India
Here are the most significant rules to know about operating a drone in India, based on our study and interpretation of the legislation.
- Except for those in the Nano category, all drones must be registered and given a Unique Identification Number (UIN). A drone’s unique identification number must be linked to the manufacturer’s unique serial number as well as the unique serial numbers of its flight control module and ground control station.
- Commercial drone operations require permission (except for those in the Nano category flown below 50 feet and those in the Micro category flown below 200 feet).
- While flying, drone pilots must maintain a direct visual line of sight at all times.
- Drones aren’t allowed to fly higher than 400 feet in the air.
- Drones are prohibited from flying near airports, international borders, Vijay Chowk in Delhi, State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, important locations, and military installations, among other places.
- Filing a flight plan and receiving a unique Air Defense Clearance (ADC)/Flight Information Center (FIC) number is required to fly in controlled airspace.
India’s Drone Categories
All bar the Nano category require registration.
- Less than or equal to 250 gm is considered nano (.55 pounds)
- Micro: 250 gm (.55 pound) to 2 kg (4.4 pounds)
- Small: From 2 kg (4.4 pounds) to 25 kg (55 pounds)
- Medium: From 55 pounds to 150 pounds (330 pounds)
- Large: weighing more than 150 kg (33 pounds)
India’s No Permission, No Takeoff Policy
Drone pilots must request permission to fly using a smartphone app before each flight, which will automatically process the request and allow or deny it. India’s procedure is known as “No Permission, No Takeoff” (NPNT). Drone pilots who attempt to fly without first obtaining permission from the Digital Sky Platform will be unable to do so.
Through India’s Digital Sky Platform, all drone operators will register their drones and obtain authorization to fly for each flight. From December 1, 2018, the Digital Sky Platform and additional information will be available on the DGCA website.
Following the government’s restriction on drone imports, India’s civil aviation ministry has announced yet another significant adjustment to the country’s new drone legislation. It has made it easier for people to lawfully use small drones for non-commercial purposes. The government has now issued the Drone (Amendment) Rules, 2022, which state that a remote pilot certificate (formerly known as a license) will not be necessary for non-commercial flying of small to medium size drones weighing up to 2kg.
Additionally, anyone flying drones over 2kg in weight or for business purposes is no longer required to obtain a ‘Remote Pilot Licence’ to lawfully fly. Instead, a Remote Pilot Certificate is all that is required.
The procedure for earning a remote pilot’s license is as follows:
Within seven days of passing the stipulated competence exam performed by an authorized remote pilot training organization, the natural person shall be awarded a remote pilot certificate by such an authorized remote pilot training organization through the digital sky platform.
For each remote pilot certificate given through the digital sky platform, the authorized remote pilot training organization must pay the necessary price.
Within fifteen days of the date of issue of the remote pilot certificate by the authorized remote pilot training organization, the Director-General may award the remote pilot license to any applicant who meets the requirements set out in sub-rule (4)(a) using the digital sky platform.
According to the new law, anyone can receive this certificate from an authorized remote pilot training organization. This is a significant step forward for drone enthusiasts in the country. It is also expected to increase drone deliveries throughout the country.
It’s worth noting that most of India’s drone regulations apply primarily to larger drones (those weighing more than 2 kg and those used for commercial reasons. You do not need permission to fly a tiny drone in India for recreational purposes.
Note, however, that you must not fly any nano drone higher than 50 feet (15 m) above ground level (AGL). If you fly in controlled airspaces, such as airports or other critical installations, you’ll require authorization, even for nano drones.
When the government announced the new drone rules last year, it stipulated that after receiving training from a DGCA approved drone training institute in India, you must register as a Remote Pilot and obtain a “Pilot Identification number” and Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) to legally fly drones (except nano models weighing less than 250 gm) in India.
If you want to operate a micro drone (one that weighs more than 250 gm but less than or equal to 2 kg, you’ll need some training, especially if you want to use it for commercial purposes. It is recommended that you receive training from a DGCA-approved institute so that you do not have to worry about permits or other issues.
According to the new government law, after receiving instruction from a DGCA-approved drone training facility, you are no longer required to obtain a license from the DGCA separately. After passing the course, you will receive a ‘Remote Pilot Certificate’ from the DGCA-approved drone training facility, allowing you to fly micro drones for commercial purposes. This will just expedite the training of additional drone pilots in India, hence increasing drone delivery in the country.
- Airspace map – Within 30 days of the date of announcement of these rules, the Central Government may publish on the digital sky platform an airspace map for drone operations that divides India’s whole airspace into red, yellow, and green zones, with a horizontal resolution of at least 10 m.
- Interactive maps – The airspace map for drone operations must be designed to be programmatically accessible via a machine-readable Application Programming Interface (API) and interactive so that drone pilots can plot their proposed flight plan and quickly identify the zone(s) within which it falls to determine whether or not they need to submit a prior approval application.
- Pre-flight verification of zonal limitations is required — Before beginning a drone operation, a drone pilot must check the digital sky platform for any notifications or restrictions that may apply to drone operations in the targeted region of operation.
- Dynamic nature of zoning – The Central Government may update the airspace map on the digital sky platform for drone operations from time to time to alter the status of an area from one zone to another, due to the dynamic nature of zoning. Any such adjustment must take effect within seven days of the date of its publication.
- Data accessibility. – Direct access to the data available on the digital sky platform will be provided to all state governments, union territory administrations, and law enforcement agencies.
- Temporary red zone –
- If there is an urgent need to temporarily prohibit drone flights in a specific area, the concerned State Government, Union Territory Administration, or law enforcement agency may declare a temporary red zone over that area, notifying it through the digital sky platform and highlighting it on the airspace map, for a period not exceeding 48 hours at a time.
- An officer with the rank of Superintendent of Police or its equivalent must declare the temporary red zone. The temporary red zone’s size must be fair and not excessive, according to this officer.
- The digital sky platform shall attempt to notify holders of unique identification numbers within a five-kilometer radius of the temporary red zone of such a restriction via electronic means, provided that failure to receive such information does not absolve a drone pilot of the responsibility to check the digital sky platform for zonal restrictions before beginning a drone operation.
- The Drone Rules 2021 associated airspace maps classify Indian airspace into three zones as follows:
- Red Zone – means the airspace of defined dimensions above the land areas or territorial waters of India, or any installation or notified port limits specified by the Central Government beyond the territorial waters of India, within which unmanned aircraft system operations shall be permitted only by the Central Government, according to the Drone Rules 2021 associated airspace maps.
- Yellow Zone – It is a specified area of airspace above India’s land areas or territorial waters where unmanned aircraft system operations are restricted and require permission from the relevant air traffic control authority. The airspace over 400 feet or 120 m in the authorized green zone, as well as the airspace above 200 feet or 60 m in the area between 8 and 12 km from an operating airport’s boundary, shall be designated as a yellow zone.
- Green Zone – The airspace up to a vertical distance of 400 feet or 120 m above India’s land areas or territorial waters that have not been designated as a red zone or yellow zone in the airspace map for unmanned aircraft system operations, as well as the airspace up to a vertical distance of 200 feet or 60 m above the area located between a lateral distance of 8 km and 12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport.
The provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and the rules promulgated thereunder apply mutatis mutandis to drone third-party insurance and compensation in the event of death or property damage caused by a drone.
A nano drone may operate without third-party insurance, despite the provisions of this law.
Prosecution for offenses
(1) A person who has contravened or failed to comply with these regulations may be punished by the Court under sub-section (2) of Section 10 of the Aircraft Act, 1934, and such contraventions or non-compliance may be compounded under Section 12A of the Aircraft Act, 1934.
(2) The provisions of these rules shall be in addition to, not in lieu of, the provisions of any other law in force at the time.
Where the Director-General or an officer authorized by the Central Government, State Government, or Union Territory Administration is satisfied that a person has contravened or failed to comply with the provisions of these rules, after giving an opportunity to be heard, he may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, levy a penalty not exceeding rupees one lakh as per Section 10A of the Aircraft Act, 1934.
Cancellation or suspension
Where the Director-General or an officer authorized by the Central Government, State Government, or Union Territory Administration is satisfied that a person has contravened or failed to comply with the provisions of these rules, he may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, cancel or suspend any license, certificate, authorization, or approval granted under these rules, after giving an opportunity to be heard.
Drones are formally referred to as “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)” and are beneficial in a variety of industries, including transportation, agriculture, defense, law enforcement, surveillance, and emergency response, to name a few.
The government has chosen to remove the UAS Rules, 2021, and replace them with the liberalized Drone Rules, 2021, based on public feedback. Finally, the drone rules have liberalized the operation and process that must be followed before flying a drone in India. Most crucially, the number of fields has been reduced to five. The Digital Sky Platform, for example, will be a single-window platform that will give basic information and manage the registration process, certification, map maintenance, zone allocation, and update, as well as control the operations and traffic of UAVs digitally. Only after a specified amount of time has passed can the application and operation of the rules’ characteristics be evaluated. This was the Civil Aviation Ministry’s most significant breakthrough in the regulation of drones in India till the fourth quarter of 2021. In the coming decade, there will be a lot of progress in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, as legislation for the regulation of hybrid cars will be put in place, as Indian entrepreneurs have developed a working hybrid model car that can fly and run on roads. The management and control of Digital Sky, the key software developed by the ministry to oversee drones in India, would play the most crucial role in the drone regulation regime.
WRITTEN BY –
Ms. Sujan Shah