The Mumbai Police has issued an order banning the use of drones in the city, following an incident where online real estate portal Housing’s employees were allegedly seen flying an unmanned aerial vehicle over Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), reports DNA.

The order, issued under Section 144 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, states that terrorists are likely to carry out an attack in Mumbai using ‘para gliders and remote controlled micro light aircraft’ between 4 July and 2 August. We’ve contacted Housing for further details and will update once we hear from them.

No arrests have been made over this incident so far. The Trombay police allegedly questioned Housing’s data collector Shiv Kumar Shahane and Rohit Sonawane, as well as seized the drone, which was fitted with a high resolution camera and memory card, which had around 300 pictures.

According to the DNA report, two employees of Housing were flying drones near BARC and TISS to take images of some properties around the campuses, which was spotted by a TISS professor. He saw the drone flying at a height of around 20 metres, took a video of the drone and noted the number of the car in which the alleged Housing employees had driven. He also handed the footage to the police. This incident triggered a security alert at BARC, which is also allegedly on the terror hit list.

The Housing employees were reported to take pictures of an upcoming housing project from various angles and a TOI report stated that they had used drones for housing photography before, too. Deven Bharti, the Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) said that there was a blanket order against using drones in city limits without prior permission.

Ganesh Chaturthi drone ban: There was a similar situation in September last year when Mumbai residents were no longer permitted to fly drones, as the local authority had banned its usage in the city. The cops who had previously prohibited the use of drones till the end of last year’s Ganesh festival feared the misuse of drones and extended the ban until regulatory mechanism on the use of drones was established.

Drone regulation: In April, we’d reported that the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) was framing guidelines  for the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones in India. Ecommerce players like Amazon have been pushing hard for the use of drones as a means of last mile delivery in the United States. Recently the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also issued guidelines for the civilian use of drones. One of the contentious parts of the guidelines was that a line of sight must always be kept between the operator and the drone.

Image Credit: Flickr user Michael MK Khor