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India’s draft drone policy: registration, operator license, flying conditions & more

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We missed this earlier: The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has released a draft paper (pdf) with guidelines for obtaining a Unique Identification Number (UIN) and permission to fly a civil unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Hat tip: Amlan Mohanty

Comments needed to have been sent by the 21st of May 2016 to Lalit Gupta, Joint Director General, Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation,at lalit.dgca@nic.in. Our apologies to our readers for missing this deadline. We’ll update when a final policy is released, but here’s what the draft policy has:

The DGCA cites the increasing civil use of UAS for damage assessment of property and life in areas with natural calamities, for surveys, infrastructure monitoring, commercial photography, aerial mapping etc., as reasons for the requirement of guidelines. In April 2015, we’d reported that the DGCA was framing guidelines for the operation of UAVs or drones in the country, post which drones were expected to be legalized.

“UA operations present problems to the regulator in terms of ensuring safety of other users of airspace and persons on the ground. However, in view of technological advancements in UAS over the years and their increased civil applications, it has become necessary to develop guidance material to regulate this activity.”

A look at the guidelines:

1) Issuance of unique identification number (UIN):

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All unmanned aircraft to be operated in India will require an Unique Identification Number (UIN) issued from the DGCA. This will be granted only to citizens of India, or a company or body that is registered and has its principal place of business in India, its chairman and 2/3rds of directors are citizens of India and its ownership and effective control is in the hands of Indian nationals.

To own a drone:

  • Documentation needed: address proof, statement of purpose of operation of UA, specification of the drone including (manufacturer name, type, model number, year of manufacture, weight and size, type of propulsion system, flying capabilities in terms of maximum endurance, range and height, equipment capabilities etc.), police clearance of character, permission for all frequencies used in drone operations from the Department of Telecommunications (it’s not clear if permission is required to operate using unlicensed spectrum like WiFi), copy of the flight manual, and manufacturer provided maintenance guidelines.
  • Fireproof ID Plate on drone: Finally, users will also be required to make a fireproof identification plate and inscribe it with the UIN and an RFID tag, or put a SIM on the UA to for identification.

Once all these steps are complete, a user is entitled only to own a drone

To fly a drone:

  • Permit: a user will require DGCA’s UA drone operator permit for flying above 200 feet, or a permit from the local administration for below 200 feet.

2) Who requires an UA operator permit?

All drone operators operating unmanned aircraft at or above 200 feet above ground level will required a UA Operator Permit (UAOP) from the DGCA. Users with drones that operate below that level out of restricted and danger areas as well as Temporary Segregated Areas (TSA) and Temporary Reserved Areas (TRA), will be required to obtain permission from the local administration. Model aircraft operating below 200 feet in uncontrolled airspace and indoor for recreational purposes will be permitted, including activities within the premises of educational institutions.

3) Procedure for issuance of UA operator permit (UAOP):

For flying drones above 200 feet, users will have to submit an application for an UA operator permit with the DGCA with the following documents:
– Permission from either a civil or defense Air Navigation Service (ANS) provider
– Permission of the land or property owner to take off and land UA
– Details of remote piloting and training records
– Third party accidental insurance (if applicable)
– Security clearance from the Bureau of civil Aviation Security of India

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This application should be submitted at least 90 days before actually flying the UA and will be valid for up to two years from the date of issue. Users will have to make sure that they follow all procedures and keep an up to date record of maintenance system. A copy of the UAOP will be forwarded to to MHA, BCAS, IAF, ANS Provider (AAI/ MoD),and Local Administration/ concerned state’s DGP/ Local ASP for information. Additional requirements can be imposed by the DGCA on a case to case basis.

The UAOP license issues will contain the following information:
– Name and location (main place of business) of the operator;
– Date of issue and period of validity;
– Scope and description of the type of operations authorized;
– Area of operation;
– Type(s) of UA authorized for use;
– Unique Identification Number (UIN) of UA;
– Special limitations, if any (e.g. not over populous areas, etc.);
– List of approved personnel for operation of UAS (security clearance of personnel will be required);
– Insurance validity with respect to all liabilities;

4) Classification of civil drones:

Civil UA are classified in accordance to their weight, although this does not seem to matter directly in the issuance of licenses. However, the DGCA’s license is based on the drone’s overall capabilities. Note that drones that fly below 200 feet do not require DGCA’s license, rather only permission from the local administration.
i) Micro : Less than two kg.
ii) Mini : Greater than two kg and less than 20 kg.
iii) Small : Greater than 20 kg and less than 150 kg.
iv) Large : Greater than 150 kg.

By this, it sounds like drones over 150kg flying under 200 feet will only require permission from the local administration, whereas drones under 2kg flying over this height will require a license.

5) Security & ownership conditions:

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The drone for which a UIN is issues cannot be sold or disposed off without permission from the DGCA. In case of loss, the operator will have to immediately notify the police, BCAS and DGCA. Any accidents will have to be reported to the Director of Air Safety, DGCA and BCAS within 24 hours as well.

6) Flying conditions:

– Pilots will be required to be a minimum of 18 years old, and should have training equivalent to that undertaken by aircrew of manned aircraft or a private pilot’s license holder for aeroplanes or helicopters with FRTOL (Flight Radio Telephone Operator’s Licence). This is applicable only to drones flying above 200 feet, and not for pilots included in recreational flying.

– Remote operators will also not fly an UA unless they are reasonably sure that all control systems of the UA including the radio link are in working condition.

– Irrespective of weight category, the UAS operator shall inform Local Administration, ATS unit (for operations at or above 200ft in uncontrolled airspace), BCAS, Aerodrome operator (if applicable) before commencement and after termination of operation. In the event of cancellation of UA operations, the operator shall notify all appropriate authorities.

– The flight plan will be required to provide information including the description of the intended operation, flight rules, visual line-of-sight operation, date of intended flight(s), point of departure, destination, cruising speed(s), cruising level(s), route to be followed and duration/frequency of flight among other details.

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– The UAS operator shall not launch the UA when rain/ thunderstorm warning is in force.

– The operator shall ensure that the UA is flown within 500m Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) during the entire period of the flight (applicable only for micro and mini UAV).

– UA shall not discharge or drop substances unless specially cleared and mentioned in UAOP. It will also be required to have a return home option in case of communication failure, and third party insurance in case of damage during accidents.

Also read:

Now declaration of drones mandatory when entering India
Drones in the US to require registration; what about India?

Image Credit: Flickr user Michael MK Khor

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