Wait to fly drones grows longer, civil aviation ministry pushes date to April
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Wait to fly drones grows longer, civil aviation ministry pushes date to April

The Digital Sky Platform will be the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) portal to implement a NPNT policy.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2019 08:50 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
New Delhi
drone,drone policy,NPNT
India’s civil aviation ministry has pushed back to April the date on which individuals and companies will be able to fly drones. (Photo by Milind Saurkar/Hindustan Times)(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)

India’s civil aviation ministry has pushed back to April the date on which individuals and companies will be able to fly drones under the regulations for use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) released last August.

According to two officials familiar with the matter, the original launch date of January 1, 2019 for flying drones in areas other than those barred for security concerns, had to be revised for two reasons: states have yet to map “no-drone zones” in their airspace; and drones are not equipped with No Permission No Take-off (NPNT) hardware pre-programmed with no-fly zones and integrated with the Digital Sky Platform. Both are mandatory under RPAS rules.

Operators will be able to apply for permissions and get instant approvals through the Digital Sky Platform, an online portal, for the use of drones for photography, recreational purposes as well as for commercial use as taxis or delivery vehicles and other services. This will be the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) portal to implement a NPNT policy.

One of the officials quoted above said states had sought time at least till April 1 to map no-drone zones.

Likewise, manufacturers have sought more time to retrofit drones with NPNT hardware. Only after this is done can individuals or companies register their drones with the government and be allotted unique identification numbers.

“Retrofitting certified regulatory flight module hardware (RFMH) adapted from the ministry of road transport and highways’ AIS 140 system and integrating them to Digital Sky is an easy way to on-board existing drones to Digital Sky . These RFMH can be pre-programmed with currently known no-fly zones and can be updated with newer ones as they are notified by state governments,” said Sai Pattabiram, founder and CEO of Sree Sai Aerotech Innovations Private Limited.

Earlier this week, civil aviation secretary RN Choubey said, “States have asked for more time to define no-drone zones. Accordingly the Digital Sky Platform will be updated. Drones that are fully compliant will be allowed to operate once no-drone zones are finalised.”

Users will be required to do a one-time registration of drones, pilots and owners. For every flight (except nano drones, which weigh less than 250 gms), users will be required to ask for permission to fly through a mobile app, and an automated process will permit or deny the request instantly. The UTM (unmanned traffic management) operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on the approved flight paths, according to RPAS guidelines

For flying in controlled airspace, the filing of flight plan and obtaining AirDefence Clearance (ADC) /Flight Information Centre (FIC) number will be necessary. The regulation defines no-drone zones as areas around airports, near the international border, Vijay Chowk in New Delhi, state secretariat complexes in state capitals, and strategic locations and vital military installations. A case under the Indian Penal Code can be filed for flying a drone in a prohibited zone.

First Published: Jan 21, 2019 07:24 IST