UPSC MAINS 2019: Drone policy is live, govt starts online registrations

Drone policy is live


Topic: Drone policy is live, govt starts online registrations

Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Security Issues


Drone policy is live


The Ministry of Civil Aviation has kick-started the online registration of drones in India through its Digital Sky portal. The registration process began on December 1, when the ‘Digital Sky’ portal went live.


More about on news:

  • Flying drones or remotely-piloted aircraft have become legal in India starting December 1 with the National Drones Policy drafted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation coming into effect.
  • The new policy called “Drone Regulations 1.0” clarifies where, when and how drones can operate within India.
  • The DGCA has designed five different categories of drones as Nano, Micro, Small, Medium, and Large.
  • Under the new policy, Nano drones which weigh less than 250 grams or equal doesn’t need a registration or license.
  • However, drones that belong to remaining categories will need to be registered on the Digital Sky portal, following which a Unique Identification Number (UIN) or Unmanned Aircraft Operator’s Permit (UAOP) will be issued by the DGCA.
  • The fee for a fresh UIN is Rs 1,000. Meanwhile, the fee for a fresh UAOP is Rs 25,000 and is valid for 5 years.
  • According to the ministry, to get permissions to fly, RPAS operators or remote pilots will have to file a flight plan.
  • “Flying in the ‘green zones’ will require only intimation of the time and location of the flights via the portal or the app.
  • Permissions will be required for flying in ‘yellow zones’ and flights will not be allowed in the ‘red zones’.


Drone Categories in India:

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.

  • Nano drone: Remotely piloted aircraft system weighing less than or equal to 250 grams are exempted from obtaining a UIN (Unique Identification Number) and Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) from DGCA. For all drones weighing above this a UIN is required to be obtained from the DGCA’s Digital Sky Platform.
  • Micro drone: If your drone is heavier than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg then it falls in the category of micro drones. Getting a UIN is a must but UAOP is needed only when it is being flown above 200 feet. You are required to intimate local police station at least 24 hours before flying.
  • Small drone: Those weighing more than 2 kg and up to 25 kg require both UIN and UAOP. It can be particularly useful for agriculture purposes. However, for spraying pesticides you need another round of clearance.
  • Medium drone: Drones weighing greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg are most likely meant for industrial/agriculture use. These machines can help in aerial surveys for data collection in industries such as power, mining, realty, oil and gas exploration, railways and highways.
  • Large drones: Those greater than 150 kg are also meant for industrial use.


Required Drone Equipment in India:

Also worth noting is that India has specific requirements regarding the types of features a drone must have to be flown in India (excluding those in the Nano category). These mandatory requirements include:

  • GPS
  • Return-to-home (RTH)
  • Anti-collision light
  • ID plate
  • A flight controller with flight data logging capability
  • RF ID and SIM/No Permission No Takeoff (NPNT)


Rules for taking the license of the drone:

  • The license holder must be 18 years old
  • The license holder must be 10th standard pass
  • The licensor should have knowledge of English language


What is Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP)?

  • UAOP is a permit required by the owners of the drones to fly them. It can be obtained from the Director General of Civil Aviation. However, in the following cases this permit isn’t required.
  • Nano drones operating below 50 feet in uncontrolled airspace.
  • Micro drones operating below 200 feet in uncontrolled airspace – but will need to inform local police 24 hours prior.
  • Drones owned and operated by National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), Aviation Research Centre and Central Intelligence Agencies but only after intimating local police.
  • The UAOP will have to be issued by DGCA within seven working days of submission of the necessary documents. These UAOPs are not transferrable and shall be applicable for not more than five years.


What are the restrictions in place for drones in India?

  • RPAs cannot be flown within 5km of the perimeters of the airports in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad and within 3km from the perimeter of any other airport.
  • It cannot fly within “permanent or temporary Prohibited, Restricted and Danger Areas” and within 25km from international border which includes the Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).
  • It cannot fly beyond 500 m into sea from the coast line and within 3 km from perimeter of military installations.

Drones restricted areas

  • It also cannot fly within a 5 km radius of the Vijay Chowk in Delhi, within 2 km from perimeter of strategic locations/ vital installations notified by Ministry of Home Affairs and within 3 km from radius of State Secretariat Complexes.
  • It also cannot be operated from a mobile platform such as a moving vehicle, ship or aircraft.
  • Eco-sensitive zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries are off-limits without prior permission.
  • Violations will be acted on under relevant sections of the IPC and the Aircraft Act 1934.
  • All commercial categories of drones except those in the Nano category and those operated by government security agencies, will have to be registered by DGCA and receive a Unique Identification Number (UIN).


Digital Sky Platform:

  • 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 Drone Task Force:

A Drone Task Force, under the chairmanship of Sinha, will provide draft recommendations for the next series of regulations the Drone Regulations 2.0. According to the ministry, these upcoming regulations will deal with, among other things, the following issues:

  • Certification of safe and controlled operation of drone hardware and software
  • Airspace 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 (civil aviation requirements) and/or new CARs.


Key features of Drone Regulations 1.0:


Notification of Final Regulations for Civil Use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System:

  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has issued today the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) commonly known as drones.
  • The regulation was developed after extensive consultations among various stakeholders, and will be effective from 1st December, 2018.
  • As per the regulation, there are 5 categories of RPAS categorized by weight, namely nano, micro, small, medium and large.


Operational/ Procedural Requirements:

  • All RPAS except nano and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies are to be registered and issued with Unique Identification Number (UIN).
  • Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) shall be required for RPA operators except for nano RPAS operating below 50 ft., micro RPAS operating below 200 ft., and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies.
  • As of now, RPAS to operate within visual line of sight (VLoS), during day time only, and upto maximum400 ft. altitude.
  • For flying in controlled Airspace, filing of flight plan and obtaining Air Defence Clearance (ADC) /Flight Information Centre (FIC) number shall be necessary.
  • Minimum manufacturing standards and training requirements of Remote Pilots of small and above categories of RPAS have been specified in the regulation.


No Drone Zones:

  • The regulation defines “No Drone Zones” around airports near international border, Vijay Chowk in Delhi State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations/vital and military installations; etc.


Operations through Digital Platform:

  • Operations of RPAS to be enabled through Digital Sky Platform.
  • The RPAS operations will be based on NPNT (No Permission, No Takeoff).
  • The details including links for the digital sky platform shall be available in DGCA website from 1st December, 2018.
  • There will be different colour zones visible to the applicant while applying in the digital sky platform, viz, Red Zone: flying not permitted, Yellow Zone (controlled airspace): permission required before flying, and Green Zone (uncontrolled airspace): automatic permission.


Enforcement Actions:

The enforcement actions are,

  • suspension/ cancellation of UIN/ UAOP in case of violation of regulatory provisions,
  • actions as per relevant Sections of the Aircraft Act 1934, or Aircraft Rules, or any statutory provisions,
  • Penalties as per applicable IPCs (such as 287, 336, 337, 338, or any relevant section of IPC).


Impacts of policy:

  • The current regulations make it legal for non-governmental agencies, organizations and individuals to use UAVs.
  • But the high costs put them beyond the reach of NGOs and rural communities.
  • The processes and fees render it difficult for them to conduct drone operations without hiring companies, which again would increase the costs.
  • Besides this, some activities with the potential for market transformation are not currently permitted.E.g. functional drone-based delivery is not allowed
  • It’s because it requires the operator to conduct BVLOS operations and for the drone itself to release payloads while in flight.
  • But this is considered to be a major growth area for the drone industry.
  • It is also a focus for research and development as it will have a significant impact in online retail and healthcare.


The road ahead:

  • While it has picked up as a hobby in India, the enterprise drone space in India has also gained the attention of venture capitalists.
  • In addition to defense forces, mining industry, government departments like land and railways, and local law and order authorities have been partnering or developing drones with Indian startups for various activities like monitoring assets, keeping a check on unmanned areas, illegal deforestation activities, maintaining law and order etc.
  • The new draft policy certainly come as a relief for e-commerce companies such as Flipkart and Amazon who have been lobbying for some time now to allow drone deliveries.
  • The immense growth and potential in the Indian market in the near future, seeks to work closely with all the state governments and help them integrate drone technology in all their government departments giving a holistic end-to-end solution.


Sample Question:

Critically evaluate the recent New Drone Policy of India.