The term “drone” usually refers to any unpiloted aircraft. These aircraft, sometimes known as “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAVs), are capable of performing a staggering array of functions, from military missions to package delivery. Drones are designed to do a variety of activities, from the mundane to the incredibly dangerous. These robotic-looking vehicles may be seen practically anywhere, from your front door delivering groceries or helping to rescue avalanche victims in the Swiss Alps. Drones can range in size from the size of your hand’s palm to that of an aeroplane.
The amount of autonomy for a drone can vary from remotely piloted, where a person controls its motions, to advanced autonomy, where it uses a network of sensors and LIDAR detectors to determine its movement.
Different drones can fly at different altitudes and distances. Most enthusiasts operate very close-range drones, which can often reach up to three miles. The range of close-range UAVs is about 30 miles. Drones with a short range may go up to 90 miles and are mostly used for spying and intelligence collection. Mid-range UAVs have a 400-mile operating range and may be used for meteorological research, scientific investigations, and intelligence collection. The longest-range drones are called “endurance” UAVs and have the ability to go beyond the 400-mile range and up to 3,000 feet in the air.
Evolution of Drones
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has approved a pilot project with the Telangana government to evaluate alternate logistical pathways for providing safe, precise, and dependable pickup/delivery of health care supplies in rural places through drones.
The initiative would begin with the distribution of vaccinations and medications to the intended community health centres and PHCs. A similar permit was given to deploy drones for agricultural research purposes, which is likely to create a wave of technology in the Agri & farming industry. Kisan Drones are utilised for agricultural evaluations, land records, and pesticide and fertiliser applications.
Drones are also being employed extensively by law enforcement authorities for real-time surveillance of COVID-19 hotspots and confinement zones in order to guarantee strict adherence to lockdown requirements. The rapidly expanding use of drones has prompted the DGCA to formulate new rules and regulations to govern the civilian use of drones in India, ranging from the SVAMITVA (Survey of villages and mapping with improved technology in village areas) scheme of mapping out the abadi areas to get residents their property cards to drone-based surveillance system for Railway Security.
General Rules for Flying a Drone in India
The most important rules to know for flying a drone in India.
o All drones must be registered and given a Unique Identification Number, with the exception of those in the Nano category (UIN).
o Commercial drone activities need a permit (except for those in the Nano category flown below 50 feet and those in the Micro category flown below 200 feet).
o While flying, drone operators are required to have a clear line of sight at all times.
o Drones cannot be flown in areas specified as “No Fly Zones”, which include areas near airports, international borders, State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations, and military installations.
o Submitting a flight plan and acquiring a special Air Defense Clearance (ADC)/Flight Information Center (FIC) number will provide you permission to operate in regulated airspace. Drones cannot be flown more than 400 feet vertically.
Drone Categories in India
All drone operations must be carried out only after acquiring prior authorisation from the Digital Sky online platform for a flight or series of flights, with the exception of the nano category and micro category solely for non-commercial usage. Additionally, the drone operator is responsible for ensuring that the aircraft stays inside the designated region for which authorization has been given and for maintaining an online log of all flights. According to the 2022 regulations, there is no licence need for flying or using small drones in the nano and micro categories. In addition, the government is creating drone lanes to speed up freight delivery. The categories are:
o Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams (.55 pounds)
o Micro: From 250 grams (.55 pounds) to 2kg (4.4 pounds)
o Small: From 2kg (4.4 pounds) to 25kg (55 pounds)
o Medium: From 25kg (55 pounds) to 150kg (330 pounds)
o Large: Greater than 150kg (33 pounds)
Kinds of restrictions on the use of drones in india
In comparison to former rules, the 2021 Rules greatly simplify drone ownership and use. In order to fully comply with all applicable regulations, drone operators must be aware of the limits that are in place, with a focus on permissions, permits, usage, and compliances.
The Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has also deployed an interactive airspace map on the Digital Sky Platform for the convenience of drone operators and all other stakeholders. The map is color-coded into Green, Yellow, and Red zones. Drones can fly in green zones without special permission, whereas yellow zones are regulated airspace and require authorization. Flying is severely prohibited in red zones. Red zones are limited owing to the potential of accidents or for reasons of national security and include places like military sites or nuclear power facilities.
Restriction on speed and elevation:Operators should not fly Nano and micro drones over 50 ft. above ground level and above a speed of 25 m/s.
No permission – No Take-off: In India, authorization is required prior to any drone operation. A smartphone app (part of the digital sky platform) that is accessible to drone operators shows authorization and automatically accepts or denies it. Drones must meet certain requirements in order to be used in India, including being unable to take off without authorization. Operators of drones must ensure that they comply with all these restrictions. Failure to do so could result in penalties, including a fine of up to INR 1,00,000.
Notably, the New Rules only criminalise the carriage of weapons and explosives and the operation of drones without permission. Moreover, it shall be a valid defence to any proceedings under the New Rules if the contravention is proved to have been caused due to factors or circumstances beyond the control of the relevant person or without the knowledge or fault of such person such as stress of weather, or any other unavoidable cause or circumstances. This does not, of course, exempt liability under other laws. For any other contravention of the New Rules, a maximum penalty of INR One Lakh (approx. USD 1350) has been prescribed.
Remote Pilot License to fly a drone
A remote pilot license means the permit issued by an authorized remote pilot training organisation to any natural person for operating a particular class or class of drones. However, the amended rules substitute the word in the Drone Rules, 2021 with the word certificate. With each renewal application, a remote pilot license’s initial ten-year term can be extended for an additional 10 years. After acquiring a certificate of training and a skill test report from an approved training provider, the DGCA will, for a charge, grant a remote pilot licence.
Earlier, the government stipulated that a person may only operate a drone after receiving training at a DGCA-approved drone training facility in India and registering with Remote Pilot to obtain a “Pilot Identification number” and Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) (except the nano models). However, the most recent regulations specify that no experience is necessary for those using nano and micro drones for non-commercial reasons.
The following natural persons are eligible for a remote pilot license:
Must be at least eighteen years old and not more than sixty-five years old;
Must have passed a recognised Board’s class tenth or equivalent examination; and
Must have completed the training prescribed by the Director-General for the applicable class of remote pilot license from an authorized remote pilot training organization.
Although these are only the essentials for operating a drone, a pilot must also be familiar with avionics, weather, wind speed, and other mechanics. Every industry is using drones more often as a result of technological advancements, and each industry has its own requirements.
The length of remote pilot licence training varies depending on the type of drone an individual want to fly, however the majority of instruction is brief and lasts between five and seven days.
Drones are becoming increasingly popular for both recreational and commercial purposes all over the world. In India, the publication of the Drone Rules, 2021 and the Drone (Amendment) Rules, 2021 make the operation of drones simpler than ever before.
A drone import restriction is intended to encourage the Indian manufacturing sector to quickly adopt new technologies in order to meet the demands of the Indian market along with the announcement of these Rules. Although it is allowed to fly a drone in India, one should be cautious of the laws since there is a chance that it might fail and cause unintentional harm to others. For this reason, it is important to regulate who can own and operate drones.
New laws and guidelines support the ambitious objective of the Indian government to establish India as a centre for drones by 2030. Before using a drone in India, it is essential to be aware of these laws and guidelines.