Draft norms for drones in India out; final rules by next year

India hopes to frame rules on use of drones, including for commercial purposes, by December end, the aviation ministry said on Wednesday.

Drones for civilian use will require a unique identification number as well as radio frequency tags, according to the civil aviation ministry as it today unveiled draft norms for the unmanned aircraft systems.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will place the draft rules on its website this week and seek comments from the public.

The regulations, once finalised, would permit commercial use of drones in the country, civil aviation secretary R N Choubey said.

On whether companies can use drones to deliver goods, Choubey said answered in the affirmative. "We are making the rules very, very user friendly," Choubey told reporters in New Delhi.

Under the proposed rules, the regulator has classified drones in five categories based on their weight.

Nano drones, or those that weigh less than 250gm and are capable of flying no more than 50 feet above the ground, will not need any permission.

Drones up to 2kg which can fly up to 200 ft will need police permission. Those weighing more than 2kg will need to apply for permissions, including from the police, as well as a licence and flight plan.

"All drones are proposed to be operated in visual line of sight, during daytime only and below 200 feet," the ministry said in a release.

There will be restriction on flying drones in sensitive areas including around India Gate in Delhi, international borders, within 5km of an airport, 500metres of strategic locations, from mobile platforms such as a car, ship or aircraft, and over eco-sensitive zones like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

Drones would be issued unique identification numbers and those falling in the mini category would need to comply with remote pilot approval requirement.

Besides "RFID / SIM", drones should have return to home option and anti-collision lights, as per the draft rules. RFID (radio frequency identification) is used for the identification purpose electronically.

Drones would not be allowed within "5 kilometre radius from Vijay Chowk (in national capital)" and also from a mobile platform such as a moving vehicle, ship or aircraft.Government agencies will be free to use drones according to their own guidelines and will not be part of this framework.

The ministry had first issued guidelines for drones last year but they have not been implemented yet. The government hopes to put the rules in place by 31 December.

''The general interest was always there. Not having regulation was amounting to a total ban. That did not make sense,'' Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said at a press conference on Wednesday.

''It can also be very useful in humanitarian causes like delivery of blood.''

In the US, companies such as Amazon are experimenting with delivering packages with drones. But in India with cheap and abundant labour, ecommerce delivery companies pay only about Rs15 to delivery boys for every delivery, creating thousands of jobs in the process.