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[RSTV Archive] Drone Draft rules: Impetus to future tech

The Union Civil Aviation ministry has released the draft of the national drone policy, making it significantly easier for people and companies to own and operate drones, while also streamlining the certification process for manufacturers, importers and users.

Drones have been in the spotlight since such a device was used to target an Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Jammu with explosives last month.

In this article we will discuss and analyse all aspects of this issue.

Why such urgent promulgation?

  • Drones now form a significant new consumer tech category, particularly among hobbyists and visual artists.
  • They are being tested for a range of practical as well as industrial uses such as automated package deliveries by e-commerce companies.
  • They have wide range of applications such as in disaster management, delivery systems.
  • The new draft rules provide a positive move. They present a lot of clarity in the usage of drones.

Draft Drone Rules 2021

The objective of the policy is to enable more types of unmanned aircraft operational scenarios, increase the ease of compliance for the unmanned aviation industry, and ensure safety and security.

Some of the key features are as under:

Number of forms: The rules propose to reduce the number of forms required for manufacturing, importing, testing, certifying and operating drones in India from 25 to six.

Abolishing authorization number: The draft seeks to abolish the unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, and certificate of conformance that were previously required for approval of drone flights.

Digital Sky Platform: Digital Sky, a platform launched by the government in December 2018, will become a single-window system for all approvals under the newly proposed rules.

Airspace map: An airspace map segregating the entire landmass of India into Green, Yellow and Red zones will be published on the platform within 30 days of notification of the new rules, the government said. The map will also be machine-readable through an Application Programming Interface (API) for easier plotting of drone flight paths.

Airport Perimeter: The draft rules reduced the airport perimeter from 45 km to 12 km. The rules state that no flight permissions would be required to fly up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.

Drone corridors: The government will also publish a policy framework for Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) within 60 days of notifying the rules. This will also include frameworks for developing “drone corridors” for the safe transfer of goods by drones.

Drone Promotion Council: The Rules also propose the setting up of a Drone Promotion Council, with the aim of facilitating a business-friendly regulatory regime for drones in India, the establishment of incubators for developing drone technologies and organizing competitive events to showcase drones and counter-drone solutions.

Others: To implement safety features such as “no permission, no take-off”, real-time tracking and geofencing, drone manufacturers, importers and operators will get six months’ time to comply from the date of notification of the rules.

Security imperative and Drones

  • The integration of unmanned aircraft systems into national air-force is critical and challenging both.
  • We have incidences were arms, narcotic drugs have been dropped by drones. So, security challenges are increasing.
  • DRDO has come up with an Anti-drone system. This makes India capable of where drones can be jammed.
  • Other is one can shoot the drone through lasers. But this has potential threats to humans.
  • Drones are called eyes in the sky as they are used by law enforcement agencies, fire emergency services, health care facilities.

Digital Sky Platform: Key to Success

  • The success of these initiatives will depend in large part on the ‘Digital Sky’ platform — a single-window online system where most permissions to own and operate drones will be self-generated.
  • Bureaucratic red tape and ‘rubber stamp culture’ has been the bane of Indian aviation for decades.
  • Paper trails with needless human intervention lend themselves to ‘discretionary powers’ and opens doors for corruption.
  • It is encouraging to see the shift to paperless approval.

Conclusion

  • The drone industry (manufacturing and operation) is still grappling with evolutionary challenges in India.
  • The ministry of civil aviation’s decision to liberalize the drone policy even after the recent drone incidents in Jammu showcases the government’s bold approach.
  • They are necessary to promote the use of the drone and the government must focus on the development of counter-drone technology to address the threat posed by rogue drones.
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