Drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are legally operated in India. On August 26, 2021, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) published a new Drone Policy formalizing the draft regulations published earlier this summer. The government has decided to abolish the UAS regulations of 2021 and replace them with the liberalized drone regulations of 2021 based on public opinion.
Recently, the Department of Civil Aviation made major changes to the country's drone regulations. The government passed the Drone (Amendment) Regulations 2022 which states that a remote control certificate (formerly known as a licence) is not required to fly small to medium sized drones up to 2kg for non-commercial purposes.
Drones are very useful in a variety of industries including transportation, agriculture, defense, law enforcement, surveillance, and emergency response to name a few. Consumer interest has increased in recent years with the growing demand for aerial photography and a wide range of business applications in India's B2B sector.
The drone can now be used but criteria set by the Government of India, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and DGCA must be met.
Operation of Drones:
The Directorate-General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued regulations for the use of civilian drones in India. Here's a quick overview of those regulations-
Registration and Licensing: All drones must be registered with the DGCA and operators must be licensed to fly them. Registration can be done on the “Digital Sky Platform” managed by the DGCA, which provides a single online platform for drone registration and permits related to drone operations.
Operator Requirements: Operators must be at least 18 years old, trained at a DGCA-approved facility, and have passed a written exam. Once granted, a license to operate a drone is valid for 10 years.
Usage Restrictions: There are restrictions on where and when operators can fly drones. For example, operators cannot fly near airports or in densely populated areas.
Green, yellow and red zones
The Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has also launched an interactive airspace map on the Digital Sky platform to serve drone operators and all other stakeholders. The map is color-coded into green, yellow, and red areas.
While no permit is required to fly drones in the green zones, the yellow zones are controlled airspace and require special permission to enter. Red zones are absolute no-fly zones. Red zones include areas such as military bases or nuclear power plants, and other sensitive areas are restricted due to the risk of accidents or for national security reasons.
Rule 38 of the Act sets restrictions on images or other data captured by an unmanned aerial vehicle. It is not possible to collect data/images in areas outside of the service. In addition, information about an individual and their property can be confiscated only with their prior consent.
This provision reads as follows:
38. Imagery or Data capturing by Unmanned Aircraft in flight:
No person shall capture, or cause or permit to be captured, from an unmanned aircraft in flight, any imagery or data of the areas specified in sub- rule (2) of rule 37 or areas prohibited by any authority:
Provided that the Central Government or any other person authorised by the Central Government may, by order in writing direct that such restrictions shall not apply to capture of imagery or data in the No Operation Area as specified in sub-rule (2) of rule 37.
An imagery or data may be captured by an unmanned aircraft after ensuring the privacy of a person, its property, and is permissible under law.
Other general safety rules:
Other general safety provisions that may be relevant are listed in rule 45:
45. General Safety Regulations: No one shall act in any way, directly or indirectly, to:
endanger safety and security of an unmanned aircraft system or unmanned aircraft system operation;
cause interference with the normal functioning of any facility established for the safe and secure operation of unmanned aircraft system;
obstruct or distract the functioning of any person entrusted with any responsibility towards ensuring safe and secure operation of unmanned aircraft system;
endanger safety and security of any person or property; and
endanger safety and security of a manned aircraft or its operation.
Penalties/Violations for Contravention
Rule 76 of the Act lists offenses for violating UAS regulations, 2021. Serial number 6 of the table listed under R.76(5) imposes Rs.50,000 as the cumulative felony amount committed by a person for theft of an unmanned aerial vehicle in a prohibited area. The amount for breaking Rule 45 is Rs. 25,000.
Ban on Import
Since February 2022, India has banned the import of all drones and components that can be assembled into drones. This aims to encourage the country's drone industry to become a global drone hub by 2030. There are some exceptions to this import ban for defense industry, security and R&D purposes.
The Governmental ban on drone imports is based on a two-pronged strategy: First, the development of indigenous technologies will lead to demand for drone-related products and services in local markets and business opportunities. Second, ensure that drone technology is regulated and prevent its misuse in Indian territories, which poses defense risks including information leaks.
The drones are becoming increasingly popular for recreational and commercial use around the world. In India, the publication of the Drone Regulations 2021 and the Drone Regulations (Amendment) 2021 makes operating drones easier than ever. Along with the announcement of these regulations, the drone import ban aims to encourage the Indian manufacturing sector to quickly adopt the technology to meet the needs of the Indian market. The Indian government's ambitious goal of becoming a global drone hub by 2030 is supported by new laws and regulations. It is important that we familiarize ourself with these rules and regulations before using any drone in India.