The Directorate General of Civil Aviation recently formulated the draft policy for regulating operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones by civilians. But the policy is yet to move from draft stage to a concrete set of regulations as stringent regulatory measures have been proposed to deal with security concerns that arise from the fact that these small drones will be easily available to anyone.

The DGCA on 26 April had invited comments on a draft paper by 21 May. After that, the draft policy was released at the end of the same month. The DGCA, while formulating the policy, had highlighted the concern that the increasing use of UAS may cause security concerns to the general public as well as sensitive government establishments.

DGCA cited in the document that civilians have increased the use of UAS for commercial photography, recreational activities, aerial mapping, infrastructure monitoring, surveys, assessing damage during calamities etc. 

“The work is being done and DGCA has taken into consideration all the comments and recommendations that it received for formulating the policy,” B.B. Dash, Joint Commissioner for Security (Aviation), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, said.

“The current concern is the safety of the people on the ground and the ones in the shared airspace. It is now necessary to regulate the operation and legalise it since the applications are so wide ranging,” he said.

According to DGCA official sources, the policy is broadly considering issuing unique identification numbers to each drone and the drone will be registered on the name of an owner after which it will be given permission for flight. This permission will only be given to citizens of India or companies registered in India.

At present, it is possible to buy a drone in a toy shop or on e-commerce portals like Flipkart or Amazon. The drones usually cost anywhere between Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000. Also, if a person wishes to purchase a drone, she will be required to submit address proofs, specifications of the drone including technical specifications along with a statement of purpose of operation of the UAS. A person will also need policy clearance of character and permission for all required operating frequencies from the department of telecommunications. The drone will have to be fitted with a fireproof number ID plate for identification in case it crashes or it is confiscated. It will also be installed with an RFID radio tag and a SIM card for identification.

Once the formalities are complete for purchase and ownership, a person will be required to take DGCA’s drone operator permit if he wishes to fly the drone above 200 ft and a permit from local authorities if the flight will be under 200 feet. “Due to such stringent regulations, we are facing some delays. Some have deemed these rules too stringent but we find them to be necessary,” a senior DGCA official said.

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