All drone operators now have a “one-time opportunity” to voluntarily register themselves and their drones by January 31, 2020, according to a public notice issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on January 13. Ownership of drones without online registration will lead to “penal action“, as per the Digital Sky guidelines. This applies to “ALL unmanned aircraft” [sic] and includes models, prototypes, toys, remote-controlled aircraft, autonomous and remotely piloted aircraft systems.

The initiative is an attempt to identify civil drones and operators in India. The entire process of registration will take place through the online portal, Digital Sky. After submitting the necessary information, owners will be given an Ownership Acknowledgement Number (OAN) and a Drone Acknowledgement Number (DAN). A separate DAN will be issued for each drone whereas the same OAN can be used for each drone owner.

Compliance with Civil Aviation Requirement a must

Registration of drones online does not give the operator permission to operate until other provisions under Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) have also been fulfilled, as per the notice. CAR “is a set of regulations issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)”. Even after registering on the Digital Sky platform, owners will still have to make sure that they comply with all other CAR regulations as well. Drones that do not comply with the CAR can face penal action if found under violation. Section 3 of the CAR regulates the use of drones in India.

Drone regulation in India

The Ministry of Civil Aviation had launched Digital Sky in 2018 to facilitate online registration for drone operators. Some of the key rules of this policy are:

  • All drones (other than nano drones) are required to have a unique identification number (UIN). The fee for a fresh UIN is INR 1000.
  • No permission, no take-off (NPNT) – Before any flight, an NPNT clearance needs to be obtained.
  • All drones need to have Insurance and an ID plate, with the UIN engraved on a fire-resistant plate.
  • Drones can be operated only during the day and within line of sight.

India’s Drone Regulations 1.0 had come into effect from December 2018 onwards to provide a legal framework for operating drones. In January 2019, the government had proposed to new changes under Drone Regulations 2.0. Some major proposals for the new policy included drone ports, automatic air traffic management, drone service providers, etc.

Both public and private players are getting involved in the use of drone technology:

  • In June 2019, the DGCA had certified two Bangalore based start-ups for the first time. In the same month, Zomato had also successfully tested drone-based delivery technology.
  • In December 2018, Zomato acquired a drone start-up as part of an effort to initiate drone-based delivery.
  • In January 2018, Indian Railways had announced plans to deploy drone-mounted cameras to monitor operations such as track operations, traffic regulation, etc.