You are reading it here first: The Ministry of Civil Aviation has resumed enlisting civil drones after briefly conducting the exercise in mid-January this year, according to an order dated June 8. The initiative ⁠— akin to a ‘drone census’ ⁠— is an attempt to identify civil drones and operators in India. The Ministry, in January, had said that drone owners had a “one time opportunity” to enlist their drones and obtain a Drone Acknowledgement Number (DAN) for each one of them, however, it is now offering another opportunity due to “public request”.

Government sources told MediaNama that around 20,000 drones were enlisted in January. It is worth noting that having a DAN alone is not enough to fly drones in India, as they still require permission from aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), or from other law enforcement agencies. We’ve reached out to the Ministry for more details.

All types of drones including models, prototypes, toys, RC aircraft, autonomous, and remotely piloted aircraft systems, will have to obtain a DAN, the Ministry said. 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), using which they can apply for a Drone Acknowledgement Number for the drones they posses. A separate DAN will be issued for each drone whereas the same OAN can be used for each drone owner, including individuals and organisations.

To enlist their drones, owners will have to submit a scanned copy of their passport or Aadhaar card, along with three “high-quality pictures” of their drones from the front-view, top-view, and a close-up view of the manufacturer’s serial number. Each picture should have a physical measuring-scale placed adjacent to the drone in order to provide a reasonable approximation of its dimensions.

Ownership of a drone in India without a valid OAN and DAN will invite “penal action as per applicable laws”, the Ministry said. “Most government tenders for drones ask for UIN [Unique Identification Number] or DAN as an eligibility condition,” Amber Dubey, joint secretary at the Civil Aviation Ministry wrote in a LinkedIn post, adding that it “would help to get one [DAN] right away”. It is not clear what is the deadline for obtaining a DAN under the June 8 order.

Govt notifies draft drone rules, looks to conduct remote drone operations

The opportunity to enlist drones comes after the government notified draft drone rules last week, which look set to allow beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, and bring drone traders under its ambit. The draft rules also propose establishing dedicated drone ports and corridors in “permitted areas if warranted by the nature and requirements” of drone operations, although separate licenses will have to be obtained from the regulator for those, yet unspecified, permitted areas. A drone can capture images as long as it is not flying over non-permissible areas, and after “ensuring the privacy of an individual and his property”, per the draft. It also said that no drone can be owned or operated in India unless it has been allotted a Unique Identification Number (UIN) by the DGCA.

DGCA has also allowed several drone and e-commerce companies to carry out BVLOS projects, essentially green-lighting them to test delivery of goods using drones, among other things. BVLOS operations are seen as a cost-effective way of delivering goods over distances, and are a crucial use case of drones, especially for e-commerce companies. At least 10 consortia, including Reliance-backed Asteria Aerospace, Nandan Nilekani-backed ShopX, Spicejet, and Google-backed Dunzo, among others have been permitted by the DGCA to carry out this experiment. This is being done under an effort by the DGCA to formulate regulations around commercial BVLOS drone operations, and the regulator is looking at these projects to gain insights into such operations. These consortia have until September to submit a proof of concept to the DGCA about learnings from their BVLOS projects.