In a first, India’s civil aviation regulator, the Director-General of Civil Aviation has approved the Bombay Flying Club (BFC) as a drone training school. The approval order is dated July 24, and was made public on Monday. According to a letter by the DGCA to BFC, dated July 20, the organisation’s status as a drone training school will be valid for a period of one year from the date of issue of the letter, or until the Digital Sky Platform goes live, whichever is earlier. The Bombay Flying Club is a DGCA approved Flying Training Organisation, involved in flying training since 1928. MediaNama was the first publication to break the story on Twitter.

Yash Patel, from the Bombay Flying Club, in an interview with the industry body, Drone Federation of India said that it plans to start the first batch in mid-August. It will offer this course in Mumbai and Dhule. “It’s been more than a year since we were trying to establish the drone training program and the major difficulty was in procuring the RPA [drone]”, Patel said while speaking to DFI, which Patel claimed helped them procure the drone. He said that while the process itself was not challenging, “getting clarifications on regulatory questions was a hurdle”.

Privacy and safety of ops is BFC’s responsibility: Conditions

The DGCA has detailed 18 conditions for BFC to be able to carry out its function as a drone training school, including:

  • It will have to “ensure the safety, security and privacy of public, property, operator etc.” The DGCA can not be held responsible “in case of any eventuality”.
  • Photos and videos captured by the organisation’s drone, if any, “shall be used by The Bombay Flying Club, Mumbai only”. It will be solely responsible for the “security of RPAS [drone] and data collected” through it.
  • Even though it has DGCA approval, it will still have to obtain necessary clearances from local administration, Defence Ministry, Home Ministry, Indian Air Force, and Airports Authority of India, prior to the operation of the drone.
  • Bombay Flying Club will need to have an adequate level of insurance to cover any damage to a third party resulting from an accident or incident that occurred during the operation of the drone.

“The Ministry of Civil Aviation(MoCA) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation(DGCA) have been supporting us extensively to kick start the training in the country, have helped in expediting the process and enabled us to start drone training in the country. All of this could be achieved in spite of the restrictions of the lockdown due to COVID-19,” Patel told DFI during the interview.

BFC, on its website, said that following the completion of the course, candidates will be eligible to carry out drone surveillance, disaster management operations, traffic management, and precision agriculture, among other things. The course will involve ground training, simulator training, and exposure to various emergency procedures, according to details on BFC’s website. Applicants will have to have cleared their matriculation exams and should be 18 years old to be eligible to apply.