After two major global attacks in the last few months, the central government is now looking at tightening its drone regulations in India. The first uncalled attack was on Saudi Arabian refineries in September last year that resulted in sky-rocketing crude oil prices and the second was was the very recent attack by the USA in Baghdad that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top army official.
The Indian Express reported that the decision to step back on the drone policy is being done after several security agencies raised red flags.
The centre has launched “Digital Sky Platform,” a traffic management mechanism which is also a live platform for registration of manufacturers and operators of drones.
An official aware of the recent developments told the paper, “There is a realisation of the need to up the guard (on who gets licences)… there will be a step back on that. It is more of a security issue. There is a sense that this (drone policy) requires careful reassessment, given the new risks and the potential that it has to jeopardise the overall safety environment, including that of the aviation sector.”
No unmanned areal object can fly in India due to its ‘No Permission-No Takeoff’ (NPNT) clause without having regulatory permission from the Digital Sky Platform and the pilot needs a remote pilot licence or an ‘Unmanned Aerial Operator Permit’ (UAOP).
The first set of regulations on the use of drones was implemented in 2018, the norms were classified based on the weight with cargo and fuel for motive power (generally a battery), but with the rider that operations have to be limited to the line-of-sight, reported the paper. Then in 2019, a white paper on drone policy 2.0 came into being which expanded the use of drones to delivery of goods beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
The Digital Sky Platform’s development was given by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the hosting of a beta version of it has been cleared with needed security clearances. The platform which is now live, needs drone users to apply for a Unique Identification Number (UIN) for all but the smallest of drones and the Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit online at the civil aviation regulator.