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Drones cannot be carried as cabin luggage on Indian flights

Drones cannot be carried in cabin baggage on flights in India as they fall under the category of “restricted items”. This came as an order by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), which is the regulatory authority for civil aviation security in India. The order came in response to a clarification sought by the Central Industrial Security Force, which is in charge of airport security in India. MediaNama has seen a copy of the order. We have also seen a letter sent by Air India informing its cabin crew about the order.

Restricted items on Indian flights include sharp objects such as knives and scissors, and ammunition, among other things, and cannot be carried in cabin baggage.

“The issue has been examined in the light of extant rules and clarification provided by Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Accordingly, the Competent Authority has directed that Drone/ Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)/ Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)/ Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) fall under the category of restricted items, hence, cannot be carried in cabin baggage,” said the order issued by BCAS joint director (policy) Mukund Mohan.

It is worth noting that drones are powered by batteries, which are prohibited from being carried in checked-in luggage. It is unclear whether a person carrying a drone will have to remove batteries from the drone and carry those in the cabin baggage, where they are allowed (remember your power bank, which is allowed to be carried as part of cabin luggage, but not as part of checked-in luggage). We have reached out to BCAS for clarification on this.

Different countries have different rules of allowing drones on airplanes. In the US for instance, carrying drones on airplanes is decided by respective airplane operators. The country’s airline security regulator, the Transportation Security Administration, doesn’t have a central policy on carrying drones in planes. In India however, airlines have to follow orders from the BCAS about what’s allowed on a flight.

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Airlines around the world have different policies on allowing drones on-board. Emirates, for instance, doesn’t allow drones on board as cabin luggage for safety reasons. Instead, drones can be carried as checked-in luggage, and the batteries are to be carried in cabin luggage. In contrast, Air France allows carrying drones in cabin luggage as long as the battery powering the drone is less than 100 watt hour.

MediaNama has prepared an exhaustive guide to the drone industry in India, encompassing regulations, use cases, concerns around privacy and surveillance, and the way forward for the industry. The guide is available here

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