The government’s drone regulations take into effect from 1 December 2018. In a statement, the government said that the “DGCA has issued the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) commonly known as drones. The regulation was developed after extensive consultations among various stakeholders.”

These rules provide more legal certainty to people flying drones, while also adding a registration and licensing regime to the entire process. This includes approvals from (or requiring notice to) law enforcement agencies.

The government said it will institute a “Digital Sky Platform”, which will manage these permission systems. That platform will also come into existence with these rules, on December 1st. “These are a pretty comprehensive set of rules but they have missed out on the privacy issue. The European Union has laid great emphasis on privacy while the DGCA move shifts the onus on the drone flyer. It is a grey area,” drone law expert Owais Farooqui told The Hindu.

The rules for anyone flying a drone:

  1. All drones except ‘nano’ sized ones and those owned by some government and intelligence agencies are to be registered and issued with a Unique Identification Number (UIN).
  2. Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) shall be required for drone operators except for nano drones operating below 50 ft., micro RPAS operating below 200 ft.
  3. Except for nano drones, all drones will need:
    (a) GPS capability in the drone,
    (b) Return-To-Home (RTH),
    (c) Anti-collision light,
    (d) An ID-Plate,
    (e)  Flight controller with flight data logging capability, and
    (f) RF ID and SIM/ No-Permission No Take off (NPNT).
  4. As of now, drones are required to operate within visual line of sight (VLoS), during day time only, and upto maximum 400 ft. altitude.
  5. For flying in controlled Airspace, filing of flight plan and obtaining Air Defence Clearance (ADC)/Flight Information Centre (FIC) number shall be necessary.
  6. Minimum manufacturing standards and training requirements of Remote Pilots of small and above categories of RPAS have been specified in the regulation.

(emphasis added)

Drone Regulations 2.0

This is the first iteration of drone regulations. The second will come after a committee led by Minister of State Jayant Sinha finalizes them. These newer regulations will cover, according to the government’s statement,

  • Certification of safe and controlled operation of drone hardware and software,
  • Air space management through automated operations linked into overall airspace management framework,
  • Beyond visual-line-of-sight operations,
  • Contribution to establishing global standards,
  • Suggestions for modifications of existing CARs and/or new CARs.

History and use

The DGCA first issued a draft paper for drone regulations in May 2016. It went through another round of iterations in November last year.

In January this year, drone companies and startups came together to form an association called Drone Federation of India to suggest changes to the government’s proposed draft drone regulations. In the same month, Indian Railways said it would deploy drone-mounted cameras to monitor activities like rescue operations, track inspection, traffic regulation and infrastructure projects.