You are reading it here first: Twenty six more green zones have been approved for compliant drones to fly in India, bringing the total to thirty-two green zones, as per an order by the Civil Aviation Ministry. Green zones are essentially uncontrolled airspaces where an Air Traffic Control (ATC) service is not necessary. Drones compliant with the “no permission, no takeoff” (NPNT) protocol will be able to fly in these airspaces. In April, the Ministry had approved six such airspaces.
The latest airspaces to get approval are in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh. The order, signed by Amber Dubey who is joint secretary at the Civil Aviation Ministry, said that the green zones will be enabled on the Digital Sky platform soon.
“The concerned State Governments and Local Administrations are requested to facilitate operations of NPNT-compliant drones in the said sites,” the order said.
NPNT is conceptually an automated green signal without which drones aren’t authorised to fly. Digital Sky is the platform which is currently being developed to handle these automatic flight authorisations. However, the portal has seen several delays so far.
Digital Sky has seen several delays
The Digital Sky platform, originally envisioned in 2018, is central to India’s drone regulations, but is still not ready to support authorisations for NPNT compliant drones. The previous deadline for its roll out was January 26, 2021 which the government missed, and it is currently not clear when the platform will eventually be fully functional, and what is causing the delays. Before that, the government had missed the deadline of October 2, 2020.
In August 2020, the Ministry had said that nearly 70% of India’s airspace has been greenlit for compliant drones to fly in. This included both green zones and yellow zones (controlled airspace). The remaining 30% of the airspace is demarcated as a red zone, which is considered a restricted airspace due to its sensitivity. In this zone, drones can fly but with special permission from security agencies.
As per data maintained by the Digital Sky platform, a total of 41 drones have been granted a Unique Identification Number (UIN), which is akin to a license plate for NPNT compliant drones.
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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.