The Ministry of Civil Aviation on 27 August 2018 by way of a Press Note released the Drone Regulations 1.0 in the furtherance of enabling safe, commercial usage of drones effective from 1 December 2018. The Press Note provides for the setting up of a Drone Task Force under the Chairmanship of the Minister of State to provide draft recommendations for Drone Regulations 2.0. The Office of the Director of Civil Aviation furthermore released a detailed document containing requirements for the operation of RPAS on 29 August 2018. The Regulations provide for an online platform for registering and operation of drones by the name of the Digital Sky Platform. This platform is designed to be an unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform which can be operated through a mobile application and users will be required to seek permission on this application. The request for use of drone would be processed by an automated algorithm and the request would be subjected to acceptance or refusal almost immediately. These Regulations implement the policy of no usage without registration. Every drone user would be required to register their drones and a Unique Identification Number (UIN) would be generated against such registration. This registration would be in regard to the drone and not the user. The user would be required to seek permission to use the drones before every instance of usage. Under the Regulations RPAS have been categorised into 5 categories based on their maximum take-off weight:
- 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
The requirement for seeking permission for use of RPAS systems does not apply for drones falling under the nano category. The UTM would operate as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and would co-ordinate closely with defence and civilian air traffic controllers to prevent unauthorised flights and to ensure that drones remain on approved flight paths. Additionally, an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit would be required by RPA operators. The requirement to obtain this permit does not apply in the case of nano RPAS operating below 50 feet, micro RPAS operating below 200 feet and for RPAS owned by the NTRO, ARC or Central Intelligence Agencies. However, micro RPAS operators would be required to provide an intimation to their local police station at least 24 hours prior to usage. In regard to usage by agencies, they would be required to provide an intimation to local police stations and ATS units prior to usage. For all RPAS other than those falling under the nano category, the mandatory equipment required for operation are:
- Global Navigation Satellite System (GPS)
- Anti-collision light
- ID plate
- Flight controller with flight data logging capability
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and SIM/ No Permission No Takeoff
In addition, RPAS are under a requirement to operate within visual line of sight, during the day and only upto a maximum altitude of 400 feet. The Regulations also demarcate the permissible zones for operation of drones. The zones have been categorised into three categories:
- Red Zone: operation of drones not permitted
- Yellow Zone: this is a controlled zone and operation of drones would be subject to prior approval. For operation of drones in this zone, filing of flight plans and obtaining Air Defence Clearance/ Flight Information Centre number would be necessary.
- Green Zone: this would form the uncontrolled airspace with an automatic permission for operation of drones.
The Regulations also define No Drone Zones which would cover the following areas:
- Radius areas of 5 kms from airports
- Within a radius of 50 km from the international borders
- Within a radius of 5 km from Vijay Chowk
- Buildings such as State Secretarial Complex in State Capitals, strategic and military installations
The enforcement actions provided for include:
- Suspension or cancellation of registration or permit
- Penalties under the Aircraft Act, 1934 or Aircraft Rules
- Penalties under Indian Penal Code