It is expected that India will allow civil use of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) or drones not only for agriculture, damage assessment of property and life in areas affected with natural calamities, surveys (infrastructure monitoring including powerline facilities, ports and pipelines; commercial photography; aerial mapping) and recreational field but many new applications when it is allowed for civilian use from 2018 onwards.
Presently, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has announced draft regulations on civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, commonly known as drones for a period of one month and suggestions and comments on draft is invited from public.
As per the draft Civil Aviation Requirements for Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), the drones have been classified as Nano, Micro, Mini, Small and Large on the basis of their maximum take-off weight. As per the draft regulation all drones are proposed to be operated in visual line of sight, during day time only and below 200 feet. Dropping of any substance, carriage of hazardous material or animal or human payload is not permitted.
Nano: Less than or equal to 250 gm
Micro: Greater than 250 gm and less than or equal to 2 kg
Mini: Greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg
Small: Greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg
Large: Greater than 150 kg
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 as per ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) proposed policy, in the form of Unique Identification Number (UIN). The Mini and above categories will require Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP), but the model aircraft up to maximum take-off weight of 2 Kgs flown below 200 feet inside educational institution premises will not require UIN/UAOP.
The draft regulation also mandates remote pilots to undergo requisite training (except for Nano and micro categories). As per the draft regulation, the Micro and above category drones will have to be equipped with RFID/SIM, return to home option and anti-collision lights.
Irrespective of height, operation of drones in Mini and above category shall be conducted only after filing flight plan and obtaining clearances from nearest ATC (Air Traffic Controller), Air Defence Clearance (ADC) and Flight Information Centre (FIC).
The draft regulation also specifies certain restricted areas for operations of drones. Drones cannot be operated within an area of 5 km from airport, within permanent or temporary prohibited, restricted and danger areas as notified by Airport Authority of India (AAI) in Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) and without prior approval over densely populated areas or over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway and within 50 km from international border and beyond 500 meter (horizontal) into sea along the coastline. Drones cannot be operated within 5 km radius from Vijay Chowk in Delhi and from a mobile platform such as a moving vehicle, ship or aircraft.
Once the DGCA receives suggestions from the public and corporate, the government will formalise the regulations on civil use of drones in 2018 and we will see lot many innovative applications unheard till date.