Government announces regulations for operating drones

Beginning 1 December, the government will introduce new regulations for operating remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), bringing them under a Digital Sky Platform, the civil aviation ministry said.

Since drones are a technology platform which has wide-ranging applications from photography to agriculture, from infrastructure asset maintenance to insurance, the use of it should be regulated the aviation ministry stated. 
Drones range in size from very small and those that can carry multiple kilograms of payload. As per the regulation, there are 5 categories of RPAS categorised by weight, namely nano, micro, small, medium and large.
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.
The mandatory equipment required for operation of RPAS except nano category are (a) GNSS (GPS), (b) Return-To-Home (RTH), (c) Anti-collision light, (d) ID-Plate, (e) Flight controller with flight data logging capability, and (f) RF ID and SIM/ No-Permission No Take off (NPNT).
As of now, RPAS will operate within visual line of sight (VLoS), during day time only, and up to a maximum 400 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 will be enabled through Digital Sky Platform. The RPAS operations will be based on NPNT (No Permission, No Take off). The details including links for the digital sky platform will be available in DGCA website from 1 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, (a) suspension/ cancellation of UIN/ UAOP in case of violation of regulatory provisions, (b) actions as per relevant sections of the Aircraft Act 1934, or Aircraft Rules, or any statutory provisions, and (c) penalties as per applicable IPCs (such as 287, 336, 337, 338, or any relevant section of IPC).
The ministry of civil aviation has been working for several years to establish a drone ecosystem in India. To that end, it was necessary to develop global standard drone regulations that would permit, with appropriate safeguards, the commercial application of various drone technologies. 
The aviation ministry said the preparation of drone regulations through a civil aviation requirement (CAR) has taken several years as:
  • The drone technologies have been evolving very rapidly; 
  • Many countries are still experimenting with their drone regulations; 
  • No ICAO stands have been developed; and 
  • India’s security environment necessitates extra precautions.
Instead of simply digitizing a paper-based process for registering and operating drones, the aviation ministry stated that it 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 unauthorised flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take off. The UTM 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.
Announcing the Drone Regulations 1.0 at a press conference in New Delhi today, union minister of civil aviation Suresh Prabhu said these regulations will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting 1 December 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 Jayant Sinha will 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; and
  • Suggestions for modifications of existing CARs and/or new CARs.
“Today we start an exciting new chapter in India’s aviation history by allowing commercial use of drones. I am sure that many new and exciting applications will emerge that will propel India’s economy forward. Our progressive regulations will encourage a vast Made in India drone industry,” Prabhu said.
“We want to establish a world-leading drone ecosystem. These regulations firmly place us among the global leaders. Our policy roadmap will certainly provide a strong impetus to all players in the drone ecosystem. We hope that these initiatives will enable us to create a vibrant new industry,” minister of state Jayant Sinha said.