DRONE LAWS IN INDIA: AN ANALYSIS
Author: Abhinav Pandey, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from University of Lucknow
A drone is an unmanned aircraft. Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems. Essentially, a drone is a flying robot that can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously using software-controlled flight plans in its embedded systems, that work in conjunction with onboard sensors and a global positioning system (GPS). UAVs were most often associated with the military. They were initially used for anti-aircraft target practice, intelligence gathering and, more controversially, as weapons platforms.The use of unmanned aircraft such as drones, is not a new concept and the origins of the concept can be traced back to 1896, when the first pilotless steam-powered aircraft registered a powered flight lasting over one minute. Drones come in many shapes and sizes and can be operated by individuals for recreational or commercial purposes. Unlike traditional helicopters and hot air balloons, drones have the capability of flying at lower altitudes combined with data capturing capabilities of smart computing devices. They also differ from the traditional aircrafts, as they are mostly economical to operate and easily accessible to a wider range of population. In common terminology, drones refer to aerial vehicles, which can fly without a human operator.
The History of Drones
Drones go back to 1849 Italy, when Venice was fighting for its independence from Austria. Austrian soldiers attacked Venice with hot-air, hydrogen- or helium-filled balloons equipped with bombs.The first pilotless radio-controlled aircraft was used in World War I. In 1918, the U.S. Army developed the experimental Kettering Bug, an unmanned "flying bomb" aircraft, which was never used in combat.The first generally used drone appeared in 1935 as a full-size retooling of the de Havilland DH82B "Queen Bee" biplane. It was fitted with a radio and servomechanism-operated controls in the back seat. The plane could be conventionally piloted from the front seat, but generally it flew unmanned for artillery gunners in training to shoot.The term drone dates to this initial use, a play on the "Queen Bee" nomenclature. UAV technology continued to be of interest to the military, but it was often unreliable and costly. After concerns about the shooting down of spy planes arose, the military revisited the topic of unmanned aerial vehicles. Military drones soon took on roles dropping leaflets and acting as spying decoys.In 1982 the Israeli Air Force used UAVs to wipe out the Syrian fleet with minimal loss of Israeli forces. The Israeli UAVs acted as decoys, jammed communication and offered real-time video reconnaissance
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are a class of aircrafts that can fly without the onboard presence of pilots [WAT 12]. Unmanned aircraft systemsconsist of the aircraft component, sensor payloads and a ground control station. They can be controlled by onboard electronic equipments or via control equipment from the ground. When it is remotely controlled from ground it is called RPV (Remotely Piloted Vehicle) and requires reliable wireless communication for control. Dedicated control systems may be devoted to large UAVs, and can be mounted aboard vehicles or in trailers to enable close proximity to UAVs that are limited by range or communication capabilities.UAVs are used for observation and tactical planning. This technology is now available for use in the emergency response field to assist the crew members. UAVs are classified based on the altitude range, endurance and weight, and support a wide range of applications including military and commercial applications. The smallest categories of UAVs are often accompanied by ground-control stations consisting of laptop computers and other components that are small enough to be carried easily with the aircraft in small vehicles, aboard boats or in backpacks. UAVs that are fitted with high precision cameras can navigate around the disaster area, take pictures and allow the crew members to perform image and structural analysis. As UAV operations require onsite personnel, it will be helpful for onsite crew members to access the disaster area first before entering the disaster affected area. UAVs that are suitable for outdoor operation and can fly at reasonable altitude are used for disaster impact analysis. The important aspect of such UAVs is that the initial assessment gives a clear disaster planning direction. After the survivors are detected via image analysis, crew members can then try to make contact with the survivors and perform quick rescue operations. Nano UAVs can be used in-built and combined with robots capabilities and can be a very useful in detecting structural damages to buildingsand detect survivors trapped inside debris.
Unmanned Aerial Systems
he first UAVs actually predate manned aviation and have continued to be a part of both military and civilian aviation ever since. The first military and intelligence use of UAVs occurred as early as 1849, over 50 years prior to the wright brothers, to float incendiary balloons over Venice. Today, they are still used for military purposes as a design option to carry out hazardous special missions without risking the lives of personnel and/or to execute missions that would not be possible for a human being to accomplish within comparable time and operational parameters. Outfitted with appropriate military and technological payloads, today’s UAVs can perform surveillance and reconnaissance, collect signals intelligence (SIGINT), deliver ordnance, haul cargo, enforce laws, inspect remote pipelines, help fight wildfires, and more.Market growth among non-military operators has recently outpaced military and intelligence use as UAV technologies have improved and relative costs decreased, States and municipalities now task UAVs to enhance firefighting, traffic control, rescue operations, airport and maritime safety, park and forest management, and other tasks that support first responders. Commercial UAV uses include aerial photo and video services, data collection, building and infrastructure inspections, package delivery, residential and commercial real estate, security monitoring and inspections, film production, mapping, agriculture, and more. Universities and institutions use UAVs to collect data, imagery, and environmental samples for research projects, as well as for security. Personal use of small UAVs has also escalated, mostly for entertainment, but also for home security and property maintenance
Drones Regulation in India
Currently, India accounts for the highest percentage of the world’s UAV imports (for defence purposes) at 22.5%.The government of India has recently entered into an arrangement to purchase armed drones from United States and the Israel.With India’s innovation flight taking off with the launch of key initiatives such ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’ and a strong focus on IT start-ups, the government must use this opportunity to make India the world-manufacturing leader for drones.The technological advancements and the benefits provided by drones have been widely acknowledged by different stakeholders in India, including the government, law enforcement agencies, industry, however, no particular steps have been taken up by the government to provide for an effective regulatory framework of UAVs, particularly for commercial purposes.
Permission to fly
Before knowing about the permissions required for flying drones one must be aware of the various drone categories segregated by the government. They are:
Maximum Take off weight is less than 250g
Maximum Take off weight is between 250g & 2kg
Maximum Take off weight is between 2Kg and 25kg
Maximum Take off weight is between 25kg and150kg
Maximum Take off weight is greater than 150 kg
Except in the nano category and micro category only for non-commercial use, all drone activities must be done only after receiving prior approval from the Digital Sky online platform for a flight or series of flights. The drone operator will also guarantee that the aircraft remains inside the stated area for which permission was granted, as well as provide an online log of each flight. For the nano and micro category the 2022 rules state that for flying and operating tiny drones one does not need a permit. Moreover, the government is carving out drone corridors to facilitate delivery of cargo deliveries.
Flying Zones Altitude
India has been divided into three air space zones based on the sensitivity of the area.
Types of Airspace Zones
Highly restricted area where UAV flying can be permitted only by the Central Government Eg: Airports, International Borders etc.
Restricted area where UAVs can be flown post permission from a nearest Air Traffic Controller Eg: Area near the airport, military areas.
Unrestricted Zones where drones can fly upto 400 ft without permission and upto 200 ft in areas within 8-12km range of an operational airport
In a green zone one could flyupto 400 ft without permission. For green zones lying between 8-12km of an airport one could fly upto 200 ft without permission. Yellow zones and Red zones require permission fromnearesr Air Traffic Controller and Central Government, respectively.
Remote Pilot License
Notably, the Rules restrict the operation of a drone by any person other than a holder of a valid Remote Pilot Licence (RPL) enlisted on the Platform.An RPL is not required for a person operating a nano drone or operating a micro drone for non-commercial purposes.
In order to be eligible for the RPL the following criteria need to be fulfilled:
1.not less than eighteen years of age and not more than sixty five years of age
2.have passed class tenth or its equivalent examination from a recognised Board
3.have completed the training prescribed by the DG for the applicable class of remote pilot licence from an authorised remote pilot training organisation.
If a person, fulfils the aforementioned criteria, he can obtain an RPL after completing the training specified by the DG for such category, sub-category or class of UAS for which the person requires an RPL and passing the tests conducted by the authorised remote pilot training organisation. Within 7 days of passing the test, the person can make an application on form D-4 through the Platform. The RPL shall be valid for a period of Ten years after which it can be renewed again. The Rules also require the holder of RPL to undergo such refresher course as may be specified by the DG on the Platform from time to time.
Key amendments to the Drone (Amendment) Rules, 2022
The Ministry of Civil Aviation On February 11, 2022 has issued the Drone (Amendment) Rules, 2022 to further amend the Drone Rules, 2021.
In rule 16, which specifies Registration of existing unmanned aircraft systems, sub-rule (1) has been substituted, namely:
A person owning an unmanned aircraft system manufactured in India or imported into India on or before the 30th day of November, 2021 shall on or before the thirty-first day of March, 2022 , make an application to register and obtain a unique identification number for his unmanned aircraft system and provide requisite details in Form D-2 on the digital sky platform along with the fee as specified in rule 46.
Part VI, which specifies Remote Pilot Licence has been amended.
Part VII, which specifies Remote Pilot Training Organisation has been amended.
Part VIII, which specifies Research, Development and Testing has been amended.
Part XII, which specifies, Miscellaneous has been amended.
In rule 34, which specifies Procedure for obtaining a remote pilot licence, sub-rule (4) has been omitted.
In rule 35, which specifies Validity of licence, has been substituted, namely:
A remote pilot licence shall
1. be valid only if it is enlisted on the digital sky platform;
2.unless suspended or cancelled, remain valid for a period of ten years;
3.be renewed by the authorized remote pilot training organization for such period as may be specified therein, subject to a maximum period of ten years, on payment of fee as specified in rule 46:
Provided that the holder of the remote pilot licence shall undergo such refresher course as may be specified by the authorized remote pilot training organization on the digital sky platform from time to time.
In rule 53, which specifies Cancellation or suspension has been substituted, namely:
Where the Director General, after giving an opportunity of being heard, is satisfied that a person has contravened or failed to comply with the provisions of these rules, he may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, cancel or suspend any certificate, authorisation or approval granted under these rules.
Form D-1, which specifies Application For Type Certificate has been amended.
Form D-2, which specifies Application For Registration of Unique Identification Number has been amended.
Form D-3, which specifies Application For Transfer or Deregistration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems has been amended.
Form D-4, which specifies Application For Remote Pilot Licence (To be filed by RPTO) has been amended.
Form D-5, which specifies Application For Authorisation of Remote Pilot Training Organisation has been amended.
Drones have become more popular across the globe both for recreational and business uses. The publishing of the Drone Rules, 2021 and the Drone (Amendment) Rules, 2021 in India simplifies the operating of drones more than ever before. Along with the issuance of these Rules, a prohibition on the importation of drones is intended to drive the Indian manufacturing sector to quickly adapt technology to meet the demands of the Indian market. The government has attempted to integrate input on the UAS Rules received from academics, businesses, and other stakeholders into the Drone Rules. The government has made a concerted effort to liberalize the Drone Rules and encourage drone usage among business and personal users by incorporating input collected. New legislation and standards assist the Indian government's ambitious objective of becoming a worldwide drone centre by 2030. The drones industry has a potential of providing an economic boost along with attracting global investments. The economic benefits also play into the need to innovate, potentially not only delivering better drones, but associated inventions as well. However, the rise of drones has presented several policy challenges in terms of personal privacy, public safety, international airspace, civil rights etc. Thus, the success of drones would depend on achieving a symbiotic integration of law, tax and civil liberties.