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Taxi, service delivery? New policy looks to draw roadmap for future of drones in India

Officials say the policy will tell investors how regulations related to drones are likely to evolve as technology develops further, charting a path for how unmanned flights can be used by businesses.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2018 08:45 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Drone policy,UAVs,Drones for delivery
Drone delivery is being tested in the US. (Bloomberg Photo)

The civil aviation ministry’s new policy on the use of drones — likely to be released next month — will not be a regulation limited to airports and security installations but will provide a road map for the future, laying down guidelines for the possible use of drones as taxis, delivery services and other commercial activities, according to top government officials familiar with the matter.

According to officials, the policy will tell investors how regulations related to drones are likely to evolve as technology develops further, charting a path for how unmanned flights can be used by businesses.

“While the policy will talk about current regulations, we will also tell how regulations are likely to change in future. You never know if in the future there will be drone taxis. The transfer of blood in difficult areas can be possible through drones. We want to tell investors that drones can be used legally for innovative purposes, and we will be open to changing regulations as and when required,” said a civil aviation ministry official who asked not to be named.

In the draft policy, released last November, the civil aviation ministry defined no-drone zones near airports and international borders. But the final policy will have a clause in which certain permissions can be granted by the aviation regulator for commercial purposes, while government agencies will be exempted from these guidelines and can use drones for any purpose required.

The official quoted above said that, in future, there might even be a defined drone path and a separate air-traffic controller for drones.

“We have put out a draft for consultation. The draft got a very large number of inputs, and in addition to that, we had to engage in very serious in depth discussion both with the security agencies as well as the global regulators because everywhere in the world there are regulations for drone coming out. We have finished all those consultation processes and will be announcing the drone policy very shortly,” the Union minister of state for civil aviation, Jayant Sinha, told HT earlier this month.“There have been changes from the draft policy because of the intensive consultation that we have undergone. One very important thing is that the announcement will not just be a set of regulation. It is actually going it to be a road map, and it really will be set of regulation that will apply now but also how regulation will evolve over time. Because we want to track a lot of investment into the drone industry but to do that they need clarity in the policy and they need to see a road map,” Sinha added.

However, the minister said, security will be a major challenge as drones can easily be used for attack. “We have put that in place as well. Policy will be very forward-looking as security is a matter of concern around the world. We have to have foolproof drone regulation,” Sinha said.

In avoid to avoid any security scare, the Union home ministry is simultaneously testing technology to shoot down drones that have entered no-drone and other danger zones. “The most important part of the drone policy is going to be how it handles the security aspect. If the security is enabler instead of barrier, the policy will be successful,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO & Director of CAPA South Asia.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 07:58 IST