drone

The Mumbai Police have banned drones, micro-light planes and paragliders in the city for a period of 30 days ending on the 4th of May, reports Business Standard. The police have used Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code to execute the order.

The police have cited a terrorist threat as the reason to ban drones during this period. The ban will continue to allow law enforcement agencies to carry out aerial surveillance through microlight aircraft drones. Citizens caught using drones will face up to six months in prison, a fine of Rs 1,000 or both.

This is not the first time the Mumbai Police have banned drones; in July last year the agency 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). Issued under Section 144, the ban lasted from 4th July and 2nd August.

Ganesh Chaturthi drone ban: There was a similar situation in September 2014 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 Ganesh festival feared the misuse of drones and extended the ban until regulatory mechanism on the use of drones was established.

Mandatory custom declaration: Last month, the Government amended the Customs Baggage Declaration regulations to make it mandatory to declare drones in customs forms for people coming to India. Users carrying drones would have to fill further forms at the red channel, where the item might either be deemed ineligible for entry in India, or have a duty imposed upon it.

Drone regulation in the US: In October last year, the US Government had made it mandatory for all unmanned aircraft to have registration. The rules for this regulation were rolled out in December, requiring users with drones over 25kg to register their drones for $5 per drone. By January, nearly 300,000 drones were already registered in the US.

Need for a drone policy: There is definite need for drone regulations in India. The fear and uncertainty over the technology, combined with regulatory and bureaucratic ignorance has created an environment where drones are currently banned in the country. In April last year, 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 the country, post which drones are expected to be legalized. The DGCA can take a hint from the FAA in the US, which issued a number of guidelines for the use of drones, including defining height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits etc.

Image Credit: Flickr user Michael MK Khor