DGCA, India’s civil aviation regulator approved Telangana’s state-owned Telangana State Aviation Academy (TSAA) to become a drone training school on August 13. The regulator has so far approved ten such schools, with four of them being in Telangana. This makes TSAA the second government-owned drone training school to get DGCA approval after the regulator had approved Odisha’s Government Aviation Training Institute on August 11. While responding to MediaNama’s queries on earlier this week, Amber Dubey, joint secretary at the Civil Aviation Ministry had told us that TSAA was being “encouraged by MocA [Civil Aviation Ministry] to speed up their paperwork”.
Drone training schools play a crucial role in the process of pilots getting a licence as current drone regulations require that pilots complete a minimum a 35-hour training program spread over 5 days, which includes classroom sessions, simulator training and practical training: and the only place where they can get this training is at these training schools.
According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s order dated August 13, TSAA had sought permission to become a drone training school on July 19. Its status as a drone training school will remain valid for one year, or until the Digital Sky platform is operationalised, the order said. The safety and security of drone operations will remain TSAA’s responsibility, and the organisation will have to ensure the safety, security and privacy of public, property, and operators, among others, per the order.
In June, DGCA had floated a draft circular which proposed to allow willing organisations under central and state governments, government-approved universities, and even private drone manufacturers to sign up as drone pilot training schools. This was a significant circular since as of now, only DGCA authorised Flight Training Organisations are allowed to apply for becoming drone training schools.
Drone operators complain of steep training costs and exclusion
On August 13, MediaNama published a story highlighting how several drone pilots are fearing steep costs of training, and potential exclusion from the industry for not being able to pay a hefty sum. The first school to get DGCA approval, the Bombay Flying Club for instance, is mulling charging ₹86,000 for its training course, which, as at least five drone pilots told MediaNama, is very expensive.
Drone pilots in India need a licence to operate, which costs ₹25,000 and is valid for 5 years. However, before they can apply for a licence, it is mandatory for them to complete a minimum of a 35-hour training program spread over 5 days, which includes classroom sessions, simulator training and practical training. And the only place where they can get this training is at these training schools. In the current pricing regime, the actual cost of getting a licence adds up to over ₹1,00,000 which, as one pilot we spoke to said, was “unfathomable”.
DGCA approved drone training schools
At the time of publication (August 14), the DGCA has approved a total of ten drone training schools from across the country. Here’s a list:
- Bombay Flying Club (Maharashtra, private)
- Flytech (Telangana, private)
- Wings Aviation (Telangana, private)
- Alchemist Aviation (Jharkhand, private)
- Falcon Aviation (Uttar Pradesh, private)
- Ambitions Aviation (Uttar Pradesh, private)
- Asia Pacific Flight Training (APFT) (Telangana, private)
- Orient Flights (Tamil Nadu, private)
- GATI (Odisha, government)
- Telganga State Aviation Academy (Telangana, government)