Drones take off - Demystifying GOI's guidelines on drone usage

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has announced the country’s first drone policy. We provide a bird's eye view of the implications of this policy.

August 29, 2018 3:57 IST | India Infoline News Service
Indian drone enthusiasts have a reason to cheer. After many years of deliberations, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has announced the country’s first drone policy. This will put an end to the ambiguity regarding drone-flying rules and the task of seeking police permissions. Further, the policy allows for the commercial usage of drones from December 1, 2018. The stipulations refer to what can be classified as a remotely piloted aircraft, how they can fly, and restrictions they have to adhere to.

So, how does the DGCA define drones? It states that “the remotely piloted aircraft, its associated remote pilot station(s), command and control links and any other components forms a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)” can be referred to as a drone. Further, these RPAs will require a Unique Identification Number (UIN), an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP), and will have to adhere to other operational requirements.

Moreover, the regulation elaborates on “no drone zones.” Thus, areas around airports, near international borders, important military installations, etc. are a strict no-no.

Besides, owners and pilots will need requisite permissions as per the policy. Users will have to apply for permission on the Digital Sky Platform app, which has a "no permission, no takeoff” criterion. What’s more, operators can obtain digital permits instantly through an automated process.

Additionally, during daytime, drones can be flown at a height of up to 400ft. The DGCA has also classified drones as nano, micro, small, medium, and large and provided the norms under which they can be used.

Though this is just a preliminary policy and has, therefore, been termed Regulations 1.0, it heralds a new phase of a possible drone culture in India. Further, this legal framework will promote the development of the drone market and encourage investments in local manufacturing.

Drones have various advantages including the possibility of speedy aerial surveys, rescue and relief operations, policing, reducing manual labor in fields, and inspecting tall structures and oil rigs. Moreover, don’t be surprised if you soon begin to receive drone deliveries from Amazon and Flipkart!

So, is there anything to worry about? The biggest drawback of using drones is its effect on privacy and security. For drones to navigate and land successfully, GPS and surveillance cameras play a vital role. Their coverage will increase, putting at risk citizens’ privacy and security. Moreover, from the security perspective, with air flying machines increasing, the authority manning the Indian airspace gets more work on its hands.

Another callous disadvantage of drones is job loss. Of course, this is an inevitability since many people will lose their jobs as drone coverage increases. People will no longer be required to deliver goods, to sprinkle fertilizers in fields, or to guard resident and office complexes. Drones can very well perform these tasks. However, this is a long drawn-out plan!

In the meantime, as the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha takes on the task of coming up with the second generation licensing policy for operating drones, he has a lot to ponder over.

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