Drones have made a name for themselves in the consumer market in the last year or two. Companies like DJI, especially, have been consistently adding cheaper and compact quadcopters in their lineup. Until now, however, the use of such consumer drones was not officially allowed in India. Today, the aviation ministry has finally penned down a series of rules and regulations for flying drones in the country.
At a press briefing, India’s Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju highlighted how the drone industry could push forward the country’s development in sectors such as agriculture and oil gas. In addition to that, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha threw in a few hyperboles in the conversation and said, “We want to make India the world’s leader in the use of drones”.
As far as the regulations are concerned, here’s what you need to know,
- The document classifies various drones into five categories based on their size — nano, micro, mini, small and large. These range from less than 250 grams in weight to over 150 kg.
- The smallest ones, nano (less than 250g) don’t require any sort of security clearance whatsoever. DJI’s most compact quadcopter — Spark weighs a tad more at 300 grams.
- You will have to submit an approval request for the use of drones belonging to the Micro category (250 g to 2 kg), however. The ministry mentions that responses for such submissions will be declared in roughly two days.
- Furthermore, you should also know that these approvals are constrained to a single location. Hence, for different regions, you need separate air defense clearances.
- Although, if the drone’s height is under 200 feet, it can be flown without nodes once registered. For anything over 200 feet, you would need a clearance every single time you want to fly a drone.
- There is also a range of no-fly zones you should be aware of. For instance, you can’t operate drones within 5 km of Vijay Chowk in Delhi, 500 meters from strategic locations, near active automobiles, airports, borders, eco-sensitive zones like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and more.
- Accepted operations for drones include activities like photography, filmmaking, medical uses and more.
One of the more interesting aspects of this draft is that the government is allowing e-commerce companies to fly drones for delivering goods. Considering what Amazon has been experimenting with for the past few years, it’s safe to say the e-commerce juggernaut will be eyeing the booming Indian market for piloting its technology.
Moreover, as you would expect, it’s frowned upon to breach someone’s privacy using drones. “We are talking to firms that have the technology to rein in such rogue drones, which take permission for a particular flight path but deviate or stray into restricted areas”, added Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey. However, these regulations are not yet finalized as comments are open for 30 days. Post the consultations, the regulatory framework can be expected by December 31.