Free Press Journal

Foreign companies may not be allowed to operate drones in India


New Delhi: Foreign companies and citizens are likely to be barred from directly operating drones for civilian use in India, according to draft rules prepared by aviation watchdog DGCA.

Moving closer to permitting commercial use of drones, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has put out for public consultations the draft requirements for operation of Civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS).

Coming out with stringent compliance framework, the regulator has proposed unique identification numbers (UINs) for drones apart from various flying restrictions.

Granting of UINs would be subject to ownership of the drones.

The number would be granted to an Indian citizen, central and state governments apart from state-owned and controlled companies, as per the draft norms.

Corporates that are registered and have principal place of business in India or those where the substantial ownership and effective control is vested in Indian nationals would be eligible to get UINs.

A company wherein chairman and at least two-thirds of directors are Indian citizens would also fall in the eligible category.

In the case of a company registered outside India, the DGCA has said they would get UIN provided such a firm has leased the drones to any organisation that falls within the ambit of eligible entities.

These requirements imply that foreign entities would not be permitted to directly operate drones in the country.

Nano drones, that weigh less than 250 grams, with an intent to fly up to 50 feet above ground level as well as drones owned and operated by government security agencies would not be required to get UIN.

The movement of RPAs, commonly known as drones, would be monitored by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Indian Air Force.

The DGCA has also proposed that drones should not “discharge or drop substances unless specially cleared and mentioned in UAOP (Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit)”.

On Wednesday, civil aviation secretary R N Choubey had said the regulations, once finalised, would permit commercial use of drones.

“Model aircraft flown below 200 ft inside educational institution premises will not require UIN and/or UAOP.

“Aeromodellers/recreational flyers under this category shall be fully responsible for its operation, safety and security. They shall inform the local police authorities before undertaking such activities even for indoor operation,” as per the DGCA.

Model aircraft are unmanned aircraft that weigh up to 2 kilogram without payload.

In the case of unmanned aircraft, a payload is referred to all components of equipment on board that are not needed for the flight or its control.

At present, aircraft rules do not cover use of drones as well as their sale and purchase. DGCA had in October 2014 restricted the use of drones and unmanned aircraft system by civilians.