It may sound strange to some parts of the world, but its a fact that drones or unmanned arial vehicle (UAM) have always been banned in India. All the drones you see people flying across the country were all illegal and DGCA had disclosed no official policy except for a draft.
Now DGCA has finally approved and the same would be implemented with effect from 1st December 2018. If you have a drone thats waiting to be flown just like I do have one, its time to get excited and follow the process and then head out and start flying your drone. But wait a minute before you jump off the desk and start looking for your long forgotten drone start shopping for a new one. Here are some information that will help you understand more as to what you should and should not do and if you need permission pertaining to the kind of drone you have. I will also share my personal recommendation based on drone flying experience in countries other than India.
DGCA has classified drones in five categories:
- Nano : Upto 250 grams
- Micro : 250 grams to 2kg and flying bellow 60 meters (200 feet)
- Small : 2kg to 25kg and flying
- Medium : 25kg to 150kg.
- Large : More than 150kg.
Drones would be officially referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)
You can start flying Nano category drones/RPAS without the need for any registration as long as it flies bellow 15 meters (50 feet).
Now the heads up important points
All RPAS/drones except nano and those owned by National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Central Intelligence Agencies (CIA) and ARC must register with DGCA and avail the Unique Identification Number (UIN).
Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) shall be required by all RPA operators except for nano RPAS provided it operates below 15 meters (50 feet), micro RPAS operating below 60 meters (200 feet), and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies.
Except nano category, all other RPAS must include the following mandatory features
- GNSS (GPS)
- Return-To-Home (RTH)
- Anti-collision light
- Flight controller with flight data logging capability
- RF ID and SIM/ No-Permission No Take off (NPNT).
You can fly drones only during day time that is after sunrise and before sunset and the maximum permitted altitude is 121.9 meters (400 feet)
Operations of RPAS will be approved and controlled through Digital Sky Platform and it would be based on No Permission, No Take off (NPNT) concept. It would have different colored zones which the applicant can see while applying through the platform.
Some of the primary zones are
Red Zone: flying not permitted
Yellow Zone (controlled airspace): permission required before flying
Green Zone (uncontrolled airspace): automatic permission through the app
One can still fly in yellow zone but with prior permission. Further, except nano category, for all other drones the user needs to inform local police before commencement of actual flight.
Under the present approval, the drones/RPAS can not be used for some of the major commercial usage which could bring in changes. For instance, it can not be used to carry humans or animals, it can not be used by businesses to deliver food or merchandise. It may however change in future.
My tips on buying/using Drone
Considering the above regulations, if you intend to use drones in India then buying one that fits your need and interest would be ideal.
Nano: If you want to use it for recreational purpose and to record videos or take pics of family events then a nano drone with good camera would be ideal. This is also an ideal solution for travelers seeking to shoot videos. Note that there are drones which low weight and may fit in for nano but are powerful enough to fly higher than 15 meters (50 feet) and may not fit into the category.
Micro: This I feel would be best of both the worlds because all you need to do is register with DGCA once and then you can use it without the requirement for applying for each flight permission. This is powerful enough to shoot grand events or even record nature and buildings subject to privacy protection. Ideal for a tourer who don’t mind carrying extra weight, a professional photographer and videographer, recreational activity with better quality video and pictures etc.
Small: This is good for high end professionals like a movie company. The downside is that you need to take prior permission before each flight.
Medium and Large: This would be a good fit only for commercial operations.
I wish you all a happy flight. It is a great news for the country as the regulation is regularized now and is being implemented from December. Enjoy your RPAS and play it safe and stay attentive. For complete details you may refer directly to DGCA website.