Drones will not only be used in the service industry, but also in agriculture, film making, mining, infrastructure projects and for medical purposes.

 

NEW DELHI: The unveiling of a comprehensive Drone Policy 2.0 at the Global Aviation summit in Mumbai last week by the Ministry of Civil Aviation has paved the way for a systematic and increased commercial use of drones in Indian airspace.

Commercial use of drones was earlier banned in India and was only allowed for military and security purposes in India. The commercial use of drones from now will not only be used in the service industry, but also in agriculture, film making, mining, infrastructure projects, medical purposes, among many other sectors.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has proposed to create a “controlled airspace” for flying of drones. Known as “Digital Sky”, the drone airspace has been divided into three categories. The “Red Zone” is where no activity of commercial drone flying would be allowed due to the presence of important installations, government secretariats, International border and other important installations of national security. The “Yellow Zone” would be a regulated and controlled airspace where permissions would be required from the Drone Directorate and all UAVs flying beyond the visual line of sight (which is above 400 metres from the ground level) would have to fly on this corridor.

The “Green Zone” in the “Digital Sky” would be an “uncontrolled airspace” where drones within 400 metres above the ground can fly, but even then, these drones would be required to be registered with the Drone Directorate.

The Ministry has also defined the different categories of drones and the necessary permissions that would be required for the specific drones to operate in Indian airspace. All drones less than 250 gms, known as Nano drones, would be free to fly drones, where no permissions are required to operate such drones. These drones are mostly used for wedding photography and play toys for kids. All other drones above this weight would be required to have necessary permissions for flying.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has already started the registration of drones in India through its online portal called “Digitalsky”. Not only drones, drone pilots and drone operator registrations have also been started and all such individuals have to be registered with the Drone Directorate to operate in India.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said, “All drones in India have to be NPNT (No Permission-No Takeoff) complaint for it to be flown in the Indian airspace. We have taken this measure to ensure that only registered drones are flying in the airspace to avoid any untoward incident. We have also allowed night operation of drones for drones which are complaint for flying during the night. The Drone Policy 2.0 also lays down traffic management measures for drones, drone ports, etc. We believe that India would be taking a lead in drone technology in the world and we are happy to bring out this comprehensive policy.”

The Drone Policy 2.0 also lays down how traffic management of drones would be carried out in Indian airspace and that all drones flying above the visual line of sight would be a bimodal control drone, where one control system will be with the drone pilot, while the other will be with the drone traffic management official. This system has been put in place to handle any emergency and if the drone moves out of its geo fenced designated line of flying, the control will be taken over by the traffic management to land the drone in a safe location.

Drone Policy 2.0 will also lead to the growth of drone ports around several cities in India. These drone ports would be acting as landing and take-off stations for drones which will be deployed for commercial services in India.

The implementation of Drone Policy 2.0 is also likely to provide a boost to the manufacturing of drones in India and this segment is likely to grow to $885.7 million by 2021 and provide jobs to thousands of people in India, according to a report released by FICCI last year.

This phenomenal growth in the drone market will happen when the global drone market is likely to be around $21.47 billion, and open new avenues to youths like drone operators, drone pilots, engineers, data analysts and such other avenues.

The concern with such a huge growth in the Indian aerospace has been about efficient air traffic management system which will be needed to be put in place to provide a safe airspace.

Dinesh Keskar, Boeing’s Senior Vice President-Asia Pacific, said, “The key thing that needs to be managed when it comes to drones is going to be air space management and safety and security of the airspace. A lot of aerial vehicles will be up in the sky and an efficient management will be crucial and a robust system will be beneficial.”

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