You are reading it here first: Components used for manufacturing drones should not be regulated under the proposed drone rules as it can be “detrimental to the progress of the drone industry”, industry body Drone Federation of India said in its comments to the draft drone rules. The Ministry of Civil Aviation had released draft drone rules last month and has invited comments to it until July 10. The rules are an effort to form dedicated regulation around drone usage, as they are currently regulated as part of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), enacted in December 2018, under the Aircraft Act.
The body’s rationale behind this recommendation is that components used in drone manufacturing aren’t exclusive to that industry, and should be treated as such. “It is important to understand that a lot of the components used in UAS [drones] are classified as multi-use components (eg. motors, Electronic Speed Controllers(ESCs), Microcontrollers, cameras, sensors, batteries, etc). All such components can be used in more than 1000 simple or complex use cases (eg. Electronics / embedded systems / robotics / industrial automation, motor vehicles, etc) across multiple industries,” DFI said. “Critical components which may pose security and other challenges like Radio Equipment are already restricted and licensed by the Department of Telecommunication,” it added.
The body also proposed to change the definition of drone manufacturers, importers, and traders, based on their recommendation to not bring drone components under the ambit of the rules. The body also called for significant relaxations to nano category drones (weighing less than 250 gram). DFI said that it received comments from over 100 contributing companies, and its representation is a summary of those. It also recommended that once the Ministry is done making amendments to the draft rules, there should be another round of consultation because these rules will “define the course of the Indian drone industry”.
Key recommendations by the Drone Federation of India
Clarify how security clearance for drone ports will be obtained: The Ministry should clarify how security clearance for the proposed drone ports will be taken, and if it will be the responsibility of the civil aviation regulator DGCA or individuals to get this clearance. 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.
- Requirements and procedures for security clearance(if needed) should be published in the form of Civil Aviation Requirements or Circulars and should not be defined on a case to case basis, DFI suggested.
Change in definitions of done manufacturers, traders, and importers: Since the body recommended deregulating drone components, it said that it should no longer be a criteria for adjudging authorised drone manufacturers, importers and traders. Instead, it recommended that people or organisations involved in manufacturing drones either as a whole or as knocked down products should be defined as an authorised manufacturer. Similarly, people importing or trading such drones should be considered authorised importers and traders respectively.
- The draft currently states that manufacturers, traders, and importers will have to be authorised, and DFI recommended that a single authorisation number should be given to them.
Relax flight log provision: After each drone flight, an operator is supposed to submit a log of the flight through an online platform. However, DFI recommended against this clause. “It is extremely important to note this change. A UAS Operator may be flying in an area without network coverage. In this case, NPNT functionality allows flying a UAS, but logs cannot be submitted after each flight. The Director-General may additionally, specify clause like ‘submission of flight log is compulsory within 7 days of the flight, etc.’” it recommended.
Enable electronic remote identification: Electronic remote identification should be added as an “enabling” clause for identification of drones. Currently, manufacturers or importers are required to register a drone with the Ministry for their identification. Remote identification allows to identify drones while in flight. “Electronic Remote Identification standards are being developed all around the world and it may become necessary to implement something similar in India. An enabling clause for the same would help achieve this in the future,” DFI said.
Make specific rules for passenger and logistics drones, add a clause for drone swarms as well: DFI recommended that new clauses allowing drones for use in logistics and passenger service should be added. The current draft is remiss of these provisions. It also suggested that the DGCA should specify conditions for using drone swarms. The main idea behind drone swarms is that individual drones within a group can make their own decisions through the information shared with each other.
Relax norms for nano drones: A large part of DFI’s recommendations seeks to ease restrictions placed on nano-category drones. The current draft says that a drone weighing less than 250 grams, with their speed limited to 15 meters/second are considered nano drones. However, DFI argued, nano drones do not have any localisation system (GNSS receivers etc.) integrated into them, and as a result, any mode of calculation of speed, distance from the remote pilot, height is not feasible either economically or technically. This makes it impossible to evaluate their speed.
Nano category drones should also be exempt from obtaining the unique identification number, DFI recommended. “An RC helicopter, plane, educational RPAS kit can be bought for Rs 250 – Rs 2000 in the market. Most of these RPAS fall under the Nano category. These devices have been operating in the country for more than 20 years now and there have been no instances of their collisions with a manned aircraft in India. Initial market analysis suggests that there are at least 20 crore such devices in the country,” DFI said. Any attempt at including factors other than weight in the definition of nano drones will shoot up the cost of R&D for products that sell for very low cost,” it said.
More from our extensive coverage of the drone industry:
- Targeted procurement, outsourcing, AI/ML: How Survey of India is planning digital mapping of villages using drones
- Vodafone Idea is entering India’s drone ecosystem
- DGCA has permitted at least 10 entities to pilot remote drone surveillance, delivery
- Drones surveilling Amritsar could detect distance between humans and send GPS coordinates of lockdown violators to police
- Inside the deployment of drones in Mumbai to contain COVID-19
- Govt agencies can now legally deploy drones for COVID-19 surveillance