Drone Regulations 1.0 legalizes commercial use of drones in India

Drone Regulations 1.0 legalizes commercial use of drones in India

Bruce McAvoy

After having released the first draft for regulating operations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) back in October last year, the Civil Aviation Ministry on Monday announced the Drone Regulations 1.0 guidelines. With this, India has legalized commercial drone activities in the country.

These regulations will at least bring some clarity to the owners now that they will be in effect starting December 1, this year. The draft and the final Drone Regulations 1.0 largely remain the same except for a couple of features and the Digital Sky Platform.

The Digital Sky Platform will serve as an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system which enforces 'no permission, no takeoff' (NPNT). The UTM will also operate as a traffic controller in the drone-operated space and will work in coordination with the defense and civilian Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs). Along with this monitoring system, the Aviation Ministry has also made the process digitized and will release links to download the app soon.

One-Time Registration of Drones and Pilot

From December 1, all drone owners will need to do a one-time registration of their drones and the pilot. Now, for every flight, the user can request permission from the app itself which will be granted in no time. With these regulations, a dedicated airspace for drone flights has also been established. Drone flying in India is now restricted to 400 feet and the airspace has been divided into Red (no flight permitted), Yellow (controlled airspace) and Green (automatic permission) Zones. Flying in the green zone is the easiest because owners can get the permit almost immediately via the app. For operating in controlled airspace, users will need to file a flight plan and get an Air Defence Clearance (ADC).

No Drone Zones

Drone Regulations 1.0 also detail No Drone Zones. Drone flight is prohibited around airports, borders, Vijay Chowk in Delhi, State Secretariat Complex in Capitals and military installations among others such strategic places. For the time being, drone flight at night is prohibited as well.

As per the mandate, five categories have now been defined that drones will usually fall under. Attributed to weight, they are nano (up to 250 grams), micro (up to 2 kg), small (up to 25 kg), medium (up to 150 kg) and large (above 150 kg).

Now, a permit from the app is essential for all drone flights except for a nano drone flying under 50 feet or micro drone in flight under 200 feet. In perspective, the recently launched DJI Mavic 2 Pro weighs 907 grams and even the Mi Drone is 1.39 kg, so most owners wouldn't need the additional permit as long as they keep it under 200 feet.

More details on the Digital Sky Platform and its app will be available on the DGCA website from December 1 this year.