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Preparing for take off – The DGCA is framing guidelines for drones in India


The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is working on an interim operations guidelines for the civil use of drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), the ministry of civil aviation said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. However, the ban on the use of drones t hat the DGCA had issued (pdf) in October 2014 is still in effect. “Till such regulations are issued, no non government agency, organization or an individual will launch a UAS in Indian Civil Airspace for any purpose whatsoever,” the ministry said.

The DGCA seems to have softened its stance on the use of drones as indicated by this Economic Times report following other countries such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand which have notified rules for the commercial operations of drones. In India, however the idea for drones has been successful in pilot projects such as in the Panna Tiger Reserve. The ministry of environment and forests plans to use drones at around 15-20 sites across five different so-called ‘tiger landscapes’ making up 47 tiger reserves, over the next couple of years.

E-commerce giant Amazon has been planning to use drones for delivery of goods and in August 2014 had said that they were looking to launch in India. Amazon in December 2013 had showcased in the US its Prime Air drone, an octocopter (a drone fitted with eight rotors) which could carry payloads of up to 2.26 kg. It had also said that products within this weight range such as mobile phones and books would likely be delivered within 90 minutes to three hours for select customers and cover 86% of products sold by the e-tailer.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines

The FAA issued a number of guidelines last month for the commercial use of drones and we look at some of the highlights of the policy. The FAA’s guidelines has been met with some hostility from Amazon as it grounded most of their drone services. Some highlights of the FAA’s guidelines (PDF).

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– Operational limitations

  • The unmanned aircraft must Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 25 kg.
  • The unmanned aircraft must remain within visual line of sight of the operator or visual observer. At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator so that he/she is capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
  • Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
  • First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
  • No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.

Operator requirements

  • Operators must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
  • They will also be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
  • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
  • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
  • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule. o Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
  •  Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.

Image source: Flickr user Andrew

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