India gets its first Drone policy, to be effective from Dec 1

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The drone market in India holds the potential of hitting over $1 trillion, says civil aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu
The drone market in India holds the potential of hitting over $1 trillion, says civil aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu

New Delhi : The government in India has come up with a policy and guidelines to operate drones. The kind of aircraft, also termed as flying robot, can be controlled from remote location through well-programmed software system. 

The new drone policy will be effective from December 1 and it is likely that the policies will open up series of opportunities in the civil aviation sector in India.

Talking about the "Drone Regulations 1.0" here, civil aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said that these would help promote technology and innovation in the development of drones, which have wide range of applications ranging from disaster relief, aerial surveys and in agriculture to precision logistics.

"The drone market in India holds the potential of hitting over $1 trillion (roughly Rs. 70 lakh crores). We plan to develop drone manufacture not only for the domestic market but to cater to the gobal market as well," Prabhu said, adding that expertise in technology is characterised by its capacity to work out low-cost solutions.

Also, the minister said that the global drone regulations had taken many years in the making in order to solve various issues of safety and security.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said that Drone Regulations 1.0 have been considered as an "all digital process" that will become effective from December 1, when the "Digital Sky" platform will become operative to put in place a system that is totally online.

"The Digital Sky platform will be a first national unmanned traffic management platform that implements 'no permission, no takeoff' for remotely piloted aircraft," Sinha said.

In order to fly a drone, users need to make one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners on the platform, which will also allow for online filing of a drone's specific flight path and use.

"The Drone Regulations 1.0 will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1. The regulations are intended to enable visual line-of-sight, daytime-only and a maximum of 400-feet altitude operations," Sinha said.

In addition, the regulations list various categories of drones and all of these except the "nano" type weighing less than 250 gm and those owned by government and intelligence agencies are to be registered and issued with a Unique Identification Number (UIN).

As per the regulations, "for flying in controlled airspace, filing of flight plan and obtaining Air Defence Clearance/Flight Information Centre number shall be necessary."

These define the "no-drone zones" around airports, near international borders, Vijay Chowk in Delhi, state Secretariat complexes in state capitals, strategic locations and vital military installations, among others.

The FAQs released by the Ministry says that delivery of items using drones is "not allowed as of now." Government agencies, however, can use drones for making deliveries, Sinha said.

In the regulations, minimum manufacturing standards and training requirements of drone pilots 

Sinha also said that a Drone Task Force, chaired by him, is working on policy regulations for the future which will allow for flying automated drones that operate beyond the line of sight.

"This is a major development that will open opportunities for our aviation sector and for India's start-up industry. We are likely to go from travelling in auto-rickshaws to air-rickshaws with the coming of passenger drones," he said.