Drones are a technology platform which has wide-ranging applications from photography to agriculture, from infrastructure asset maintenance to insurance. Drones range in size from very small and those that can carry multiple kilograms of payload.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has been working for several years to establish a world leading drone ecosystem in India. To that end, it was necessary to develop global standard drone regulations that would permit, will appropriate safeguards, the commercial application of various drone technologies. The preparation of these drone regulations through a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) has taken multiple years because: (1) drone technologies have been evolving very rapidly; (2) many countries are still experimenting with their drone regulations and no ICAO stands have been developed; and (3) 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. The Digital Sky Platform is the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements “no permission, no takeoff” (NPNT). Users will be required to do a one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners. For every flight (exempted for the nano category), users will be required to ask for permission to fly on a mobile app and an automated process permits or denies the request instantly. To prevent unauthorized flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to takeoff. The UTM operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defense and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on the approved flight paths.
The Union Minister of Civil Aviation Shri Suresh Prabhu announced the Drone Regulations 1.0 at a press conference here today. He said, these regulations will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1, 2018. Drone Regulations 1.0 are intended to enable visual line-of-sight daytime-only and a maximum of 400 ft altitude operations. Air space has been partitioned into Red Zone (flying not permitted), Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and Green Zone (automatic permission).
Going forward, the Drone Task Force under the chairmanship of the Minister of State Shri Jayant Sinhawill provide draft recommendations for Drone Regulations 2.0. These regulations will examine, inter alia, the following issues:
Certification of safe and controlled operation of drone hardware and software,
Air space management through automated operations linked into overall airspace management framework,
Beyond visual-line-of-sight operations,
Contribution to establishing global standards,
Suggestions for modifications of existing CARs and/or new CARs.