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Sri Lanka bans drones indefinitely after Easter Sunday bombings

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Sri Lanka had in April banned all pilotless aircraft including drones in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings, which killed at least 253 people. The country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the ban would remain in effect until further notice. According to Sri Lanka’s Airports and Aviation Services website, the ban came into effect on April 25. The CAA’s public notice announcing the ban reads: “Members of the public are hereby informed that any person operating a pilotless aircraft including drones without a valid permit can be taken into custody by the police under Section 107 of the Civil Aviation Act No. 14 of 2010 without a warrant.” (See the full text below). On Saturday night, the Narahenpita police shot at a drone that was being flown illegally over the Jawatte area, per Hiru News.  However, it proceeded towards Bambalapitiya and then towards the sea, following which the police alerted the air force.

The rules for flying a drone in Sri Lanka are covered by the Civil Aviation Act No. 14 of 2010, which says all drones that weigh 200 grams or more, or have a camera attached (regardless of weight) must be registered with the CAA. The conditions for acquiring a permit are listed in Implementing Standards No. SLCAIS-53, titled ‘Requirements for Operation of Pilotless Aircraft’. The ban has been issued under Section 38 of the Act, which allows the Director General of Civil Aviation to stop issuing new permits and suspend the validity of permits that have already been issued with immediate effect. Under Section 103 of the Act, anyone who operates a drone without a valid permit can be imprisoned for up to two years and fined up to Rs 6.3 lakh Sri Lankan rupees (approx Rs 2.5 lakh Indian rupees).

Policy for drone operations in India

In January, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha announced an updated policy for drone operations at the Global Aviation Summit in Mumbai. It suggested establishing a corridor for flying drones and setting up a regime for licensing and authorising the flying of drones. The regulations were in line with what the government had indicated when it announced Drone Regulations 1.0 in August 2018. Here are the main proposals in the new policy:

  • Drone corridors: Creating space in the sky with dynamic red, yellow and green zones. “A 5-km radius around airports and areas around Rashtrapati Bhavan will be red zone…There will be plenty of green zones, and some yellow zones,” said the minister.
  • Drone service providers for registering, licensing and regulating drones.
  • Drone ports: To enable drone corridors for different types of drones, and to operate drones beyond the visual line of sight, with payloads, and to enable automation of flight. “Each operational drone has to be registered,” said the minister. This was already required in the first phase of drone regulations. “They will become more stringent in Drone Regulations 2.0 as we cross these thresholds of beyond visual line-of-sight, payloads, and automation.”
  • Automatic air traffic management: To enable bi-modal control which will ensure that both the DSPs and air traffic management have control of the drone.
  • Drone Directorate: Setting up a Drone directorate under the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DCGA) to issue guidelines for drone operations, reports PTI. The directorate may prescribe “a maximum lifecycle for each drone-type and operators must apply for re-certification at the end of the life cycle.”
  • 100% FDI under automatic route for UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) and RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System), per PTI
  • The new regulations include features for “protecting personal data by design”, per PTI.

Full text of Sri Lanka’s temporary ban on drones

Here is the full text of the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka’s notice announcing the ban:

Suspension of Operation of Pilotless Aircraft including Drones

“Pursuant to Section 80 of the Civil Aviation Act No. 14 of 2010, an aircraft capable of being flown without a pilot shall not be operated within the territory of Sri Lanka, except under the authority and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a special permit issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation for that purpose and on the payment of the prescribed fee. Director General of Civil Aviation under the powers vested in him in terms of Section 121 of the Act has issued Implementing Standards No. SLCAIS-53 titled “Requirements for Operation of Pilotless Aircraft (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Unmanned Aircraft Systems/Remotely Piloted Aircraft/Drones)” specifying the requirements to be satisfied for issue of a permit and the terms and conditions applicable for operation of pilotless aircraft including Drones in Sri Lanka.

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However, taking into consideration of the current security situation of the country, Director General of Civil Aviation in terms of the powers vested in him under Section 38 of the Act has suspended the validity of any permit that has been issued by him for operation of pilotless aircraft with immediate effect until further notice.

Accordingly, members of the Public are hereby informed that any person operating a pilotless aircraft of any description including drones without a valid permit issued by Director General of Civil Aviation can be taken into custody by the Police under Section 107 of the Civil Aviation Act No. 14 of 2010 without a warrant. Such a person shall be guilty of an offence under Section 103 of the Act and on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding the equivalent in Sri Lanka Rupees of twenty-five thousand SDR (approximately Rs 6,300,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

H.M.C. Nimalsiri
Director General of Civil Aviation and
Chief Executive Officer, Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka

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