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India needs drone guidelines on par with global standards

The government has also specified the qualifications for drone pilots -- he/she should be 18 years of age, having passed the 10th standard exam in English medium, and undergone ground/practical training.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2018 07:27 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
HIndustan Times, New Delhi
Drones,Drones in India,Drones for delivery
As per the civil aviation ministry, drones are a technology platform with wide-ranging applications from photography to agriculture, from infrastructure asset maintenance to insurance.(Bloomberg)

The ministry of civil aviation has announced a policy allowing individuals and companies to fly drones from December 1, in areas other than those barred for security reasons. According to the civil aviation ministry, drones are a technology platform with wide-ranging applications from photography to agriculture, from infrastructure asset maintenance to insurance. The commercial use of drones — as taxis, delivery vehicles, or other services — will not be allowed as of now, but the ministry is open to making changes in the regulations as technology advances.

The Issue

Although the draft policy was unveiled last year, the government said it took so long to finalize it because it was necessary to develop drone regulations on par with global standards that would permit the commercial application of various drone technologies. The preparation of these drone regulations through a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) has taken multiple years because many countries are still experimenting with their drone regulations and India’s security environment necessitates extra precautions.

Instead of simply digitizing a paper-based process for registering and operating drones, India has formulated an all-digital process. Users will be required to register their drones, pilots and owners on the digital sky platform of the civil aviation ministry.

The first phase of drone regulations are intended to enable visual line-of-sight, daytime-only operations at a maximum altitude of 400 ft

Significance

Security concerns delayed the regulations. Any unidentified object, possibly a drone, routinely noticed by security personnel around the Delhi airport meant the runway had to be shut, affecting airport operations. India doesn’t have the technology to shoot down a drone and disable it.

Although the regulations define “No Drone Zones” around airports, near the international borders, Vijay Chowk in central Delhi, state secretariat complexes in state capitals, and strategic locations/vital and military installations, if a drone were to reach a restricted area, there is no way to identify it or disable it.

Many drone users in India have been waiting for the regulation; because of security concerns, the use of drones has been illegal even in applications such as wedding photography.The first phase of regulations has allowed wedding photography using drones. If the device weighs less than 250 gm, no permission is required.

The Debate

Going forward, the drone task force will provide draft recommendations for the second phase of drone regulations. These regulations will examine certification of safe and controlled operations of drone hardware and software, beyond visual-line-of-sight operations, and contribute to establishing practices at par with global standards.

The government has also specified the qualifications for drone pilots -- he/she should be 18 years of age, having passed the 10th standard exam in English medium, and undergone ground/practical training. The person should also have basic knowledge of the principles of flight and aerodynamics for fixed wing, rotary wing, and hybrid aircraft.

First Published: Aug 30, 2018 07:26 IST