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DGCA sets new deadline for full rollout of drone platform

The portal is to make sure only regulation-compliant drones dot India’s skylines.

DigiSky will be “fully functional” by October this year, DGCA Drone Directorate’s Assistant Director Manish Gupta revealed while addressing the ‘National Conference on Promotion of Kisan Drones’ on May 2. The platform floated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is under Phase 2 development which will be rolled out in three sets, he added.

“There are no certified drones available in India. A lot of applications are under progress. We are hopeful that many reliable drones will be available for agriculture in the coming days,” Gupta said.

Gupta explained that DigiSky will have features like remote pilot certification, RPTO (Remote Pilot Training Organisation) Authorisation Certificate, Type and Pilot Certificate Generation, OCVATEs onboarding for Type Certificate Workflow, Flight Plan submission, and AMSS integration & Visualisation. Since these features are a part of the second set of planned developments, they will be operational by July.

Source: DGCA

He also touched upon the following features that will be included under the third set, to be operational by October:

  • AMSS integration enhancements
  • Situational awareness enhancements
  • BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations
  • Suspension, cancellation, revocation of permission
  • Timers for SLA
  • Two-way communication
  • Reports
  • Compliance to Drone Rules 2021

A functional platform could promote the development of drones in India and usher in a sound regulatory regime. It could also make it easier for various private players and government agencies to obtain proper clearances from the Civil Aviation Ministry in order to fly drones.

What is DigiSky?

DigiSky was supposed to go live in October 2020. The platform was first announced in 2018, and is central to India’s drone regulations but is still not ready to support authorisations for NPNT (no permission, no takeoff) compliant drones. The previous deadline for its roll out was January 26, 2021 which the government missed.

The platform’s deployment faced several delays on account of COVID-19 lockdowns. More than 2,500 drone owners had registered themselves under DigiSky in 2020. The platform has integrated with other government entities, to facilitate management of airspace workflows, plan drone flights, and log post-flight data submission, among other things. The platform was developed by the IT services company Happiest Minds.

The ministry, at the time of announcement, also disclosed that green zones were cleared for drones to fly in the Indian airspace. Nearly 70 percent of India’s airspace has been greenlit for compliant drones to fly in, the rest falls under the red zone which are sensitive areas. Green zones are basically free airspace areas, and are situated far away from sensitive areas such as airports. Yellow zones are controlled airspaces, over which permission will have to be taken to fly.

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Amendments to Drone Rules 2021

The Civil Aviation Ministry recently introduced a few amendments which made it easier for people to legally fly small drones for non-commercial purposes in February this year. Under the new amendments, those who are flying drones that weigh beyond 2kg for commercial purposes will no longer need a remote pilot licence to fly.

In place of a licence, drone users will now require a remote pilot certificate which can be obtained from one of the 12 DGCA-recognised drone schools using the DigiSky platform. Additionally, a remote pilot certificate will no longer be required for flying small to medium size drones of up to 2kg for non-commercial purposes, according to the amendment.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

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