Drones go by many names, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aircraft systems (UASs). Yet no matter what the name is, drones are basically aircrafts controlled remotely which do not involve an onboard human pilot. Different kinds of techniques could be used to control UAVs’ flights, such as onboard computers which make the control fully autonomous, through the use of a remote control by ground operators, or by operators in another vehicle on land or in the air.
The term unmanned aircraft system (hereinafter referred to as the ‘UAS’) was adopted by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration in 2005 according to their Unmanned Aircraft System Roadmap 2005–2030. It is broadly defined as, “powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload.”
Previously, the use of drones were limited to the military. The first large scale use of drones was in 1959, when the U.S. Air Force, concerned about losing pilots over hostile territory, began planning for the use of unmanned aircraft. Since then, the commercial drone industry has undergone significant technological developments. There here have been efforts to regulate the use of UAS to ensure that safety measures are in place even as the industry is seeing an increase in the number of commercial drones being used for defense, agriculture, filming and weather monitoring among others.
In pursuance to the above, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (hereinafter referred to as the ‘DGCA’) on November 1, 2017, released a draft regulations stipulating the requirements for Operation of Civil Remotely Pilot Aircraft System. Previously, in India, DGCA had on October 7, 2014 released a public notice banning the use of UAS in the country. The notice for the first time recognized the menace of drones and acknowledged the underling safety and privacy issue in it. It conclude by stating that, till the time new regulations are issued, no non-governmental agency, organization, or an individual will launch a UAS in Indian Civil Airspace for any purpose whatsoever.
Further, on April 21, 2016, the DGCA released draft guidelines for obtaining Unique Identification Number and Operation of Civil Unmanned Aircraft System. The said notice defined for the first time, technical concepts such as UA, RPS, C2 link. It acknowledged to a greater extent the potential for misuse of UAS, and further stated that while it will be advantageous to use UAS for damage assessment of property and life in areas affected with natural calamities, surveys, critical infrastructure monitoring including power facilities, ports and pipelines, an unchecked use of UAS and proliferation of it into the recreational field is likely to be misused. It further laid down the guidelines for obtaining UIN & operation of civil UAS. All the UAS operators were required to adhere to these guidelines in the interest of flight safety.
DGCA will register all civil Unmanned Aircraft and issue a Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (hereinafter referred to as the UAOP) on a case to case basis.
The salient features of the Draft Regulations are –
- Categories of RPA
Remote Pilot Aircraft (hereinafter referred to as the ‘RPA’) for civil purposes are classified into five categories –
- Nano (Less than or equal to 250 grams)
- Micro (Greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg.)
- Mini (Greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg.)
- Small (Greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg)
- Large (Greater than 150 kg)
The guidelines are applicable to all kinds of civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems which are remotely piloted from a Remote Pilot Station.
- Application Process
Applications by the DGCA will be processed on a case-to-case basis and the DGCA upon receipt of the application along with the necessary annexures will examine the request for issuance of UIN, UAOP and/or import clearance.
- Issuance of UIN by DGCA
It lays down the eligibility of a person who can apply for the license of a civil RPA. The said person must be –
- a citizen of India
- Associated with the Central/State Government, or any company/corporation owned or controlled by the Central/State Government.
- A corporate body –
- Which is registered in India
- Having its principal place of business in India
- Having its chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors as citizens of India
- Whose substantial ownership and effective control is vested in Indian nationals.
- Which is registered elsewhere other than India, provided that such company or corporation has leased the RPAs to any organization.
It further lays down the list of documents to be submitted with DGCA for issuance of UIN.
- Issuance of Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP)
All civil RPA operations for any purpose whatsoever to require UAOP from the DGCA.
In order to require the UAOP, all civil RPA operators shall submit a duly filled application at least seven (7) days prior to actual conduct of operations along with the requisite fees as per Rule 15A of Aircraft Rules, 1937 and the following supporting documents:
- Permission from Air Traffic Service (hereinafter referred to as “ATS”) provider (civil/defense)
- Permission of the land/property owner (area used for take-off and landing of RPA)
- Details of remote pilot(s) and training records
- Insurance details (as applicable)
- Security programme as approved by BCAS.
The following entities are exempted from requiring the UAOP:
- Nano RPA operating below 50 ft above ground level in uncontrolled airspace & indoor operations.
- Micro RPA operating below 200 ft above ground level in uncontrolled airspace and clear of prohibited; restricted and danger areas; Temporary Segregated Areas (TSA) and Temporary Reserved Areas (TRA) as notified by AAI in the Aeronautical Information Publication. However, the user shall intimate the local police authorities before conduct of actual operations.
- RPA owned and operated by Government security agencies. However, the agency shall intimate local police authorities and concerned ATS Units before conduct of actual operations.
The UAOP shall be non-transferrable and valid for a term of five (5) years from the date of its issuance, and further can be renewed with subject to fresh security clearance from Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Security/ Safety/ Maintenance
The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (hereinafter referred to as the ‘RPAS’) owner/ operator needs to comply with few standards as follows:
- To ensure all security measures are in place as enumerated in the Security Programme, as approved by Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (hereinafter referred to as ‘BCAS’).
- To be responsible for the safe custody, security and access control of the RPAS.
- To report immediately to the local police/ administration, BCAS and DGCA in case of loss of RPAS.
- The ground control station (while in use or in store) shall be secured from sabotage or unlawful interference.
- The owner/operator of all RPA except Nano RPA shall be responsible for notifying any incident/accident involving RPA to the Director of Air Safety, DGCA.
- To not further sell or dispose-off in any way to any person or firm without prior approval from DGCA.
- To intimate DGCA for cancellation of UIN, in case the RPA is damaged and cannot be restored to original condition.
- To carry out maintenance and repair of RPAS in accordance with the manufacturer’s approved procedures.
- To carry out maintenance of the ground control equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended inspection and overhaul interval.
- To not fly the RPA unless he/she is reasonably satisfied that all the control systems including the radio link of the RPA are in good working condition before the flight.
- To maintain records of each flight as per the format given by DGCA, and make such records available to DGCA on demand.
- Training Requirements for Remote Pilots
All Remote Pilots shall have attained 18 years of age with thorough ground training equivalent to that undertaken by aircrew of manned aircraft and shall undergo thorough practical training on the control of a RPA in flight, which may consist of a proportion of simulated flight training.
A Remote Pilot shall be well aware of the no-fly zones, knowledge of radio frequencies, ATC procedures and shall have basic knowledge of multi rotors and fixed wing operations.
- Equipment Requirements
All the RPA except Nano shall be equipped with the following equipments:
- Identification Plate
- GPS for horizontal and vertical position fixing
- Autonomous Flight Termination System or Return to Home (RH) option
- Flashing anti-collision strobe lights
- RFID and GSM SIM Card Slot for APP based tracking
The RPA intending to operate at or above 200 ft above ground level shall carry the following equipment in addition to those specified above:
- SSR transponder (Mode ‘C’ or ‘S’) or Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) OUT equipment
- Barometric equipment with capability for remote subscale setting
- Geo Fencing capability
- Detect and Avoid capability
Remote pilot shall be equipped with communication facilities to establish and maintain continuous two-way communication with the concerned ATS unit. The GPS tracking system of the RPA shall be self-powered and tamper/spoofing proof to ensure data relay even in the event of RPA accident.
Airports Authority of India and Indian Air Force shall monitor RPA movements in the country.
- What are the requirements for Operation of RPA?
- Irrespective of the weight category all RPA operations are restricted to day operation and within Visual Line of Sight only. RPA shall be operated only when the following meteorological conditions exists
- During daylight (between sunrise and sunset).
- In Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) with a minimum ground visibility of 5 km and cloud ceiling not less than 450 m (1500 ft).
- Surface winds of not more than 10 knots.
- No precipitation (rain, hail or snow) or thunderstorm activities.
- Irrespective of height, operation of RPA in Mini and above category shall be conducted only after filing flight plan and obtaining following clearances:
- Nearest ATC Unit
- Air Defence Clearance (ADC)
- Flight Information Centre (FIC)
- The take-off and landing areas should be properly segregated from public access. Designated safe areas should be established by the RPA Operator for emergency RPA holding and flight terminations.
- RPA are not allowed to fly over clearly defined areas which will be categorized as “No Drone Zone”. No RPA shall be flown:
- Within an area of 5 km (2.7 NM) from Aerodrome Reference Point of operational airports.
- Above the Obstacle Limitation Surfaces (OLS) of an operational aerodrome specified in Ministry of Civil Aviation (Height Restrictions for Safeguarding of Aircraft Operations) Rules, 2015
- Without prior approval, over densely populated areas or over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway
- Beyond 500 m (horizontal) into sea from coast line provided the location of ground station is on fixed platform over land
- Within 5 km radius from Vijay Chowk in Delhi
- Within 500 m from perimeter of strategic locations notified by Ministry of Home Affairs
- Within 500 m from perimeter of military installations/ facilities
- From a mobile platform such as a moving vehicle, ship or aircraft
- Over eco-sensitive zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries notified by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change without prior permission
- Legal Obligations
UIN and/or UAOP issued by DGCA shall not:
- Confer on RPAS operator any right against the owner or resident of any land or building or over which the operations are conducted, or prejudice in any way the rights and remedies which a person may have in respect of any injury to persons or damage to property caused directly or indirectly by the RPA
- Absolve the operator/remote pilot from compliance with any other regulatory requirement, which may exist under the State or local law.
All civil RPAS operators shall have insurance with the liability that they might incur for any damage to third party resulting from the accident/incident. Breach, if any noticed by any Govt. authority shall be intimated to the concerned state authority for taking necessary action including imposition of penalties under the applicable statutory provisions.
The draft norms which has been put up for public consultations for a month, is a welcome move by the DGCA, and it will pave the way for having a consolidated law relating to future use of drone technologies. India is not the first country to do so, as previously many developed nations have put in place their own domestic legislation related to it.
Regulation in place
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) requires all UAVs over 1 kg must be registered with UAVs weighing 4 kg or more requiring a license to be issued by the IAA.
As of May 2016, the Dutch police is testing trained bald eagles to intercept offending UAVs.
In 2016 Transport Canada proposed the implementation of new regulations that would require all UAVs over 250 grams to be registered and insured and that operators would be required to be a minimum age and pass an exam in order to get a license.
In April 2014, the South African Civil Aviation Authority announced that it would clamp down on the illegal flying of UAVs in South African airspace. "Hobby drones" with a weight of less than 7 kg at altitudes up to 500m with restricted visual line-of-sight below the height of the highest obstacle within 300m of the UAV are allowed.
The ENAC (Ente Nazionale per l'Aviazione Civile), that is, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority for technical regulation, certification, supervision and control in the field of civil aviation, issued on May 31, 2016 a very detailed regulation for all UAV, determining which types of vehicles can be used, where, for which purposes, and who can control them.
As of 2015, UAV's under 300g are not controlled by the CAA guidances that include maintaining 50 meters from person, animal or property. The UAV must still not go higher than 400ft with a single pilot or 1000ft with a pilot and spotter, however as with UAV's above 300g, if within 400ft of a structure, you are allowed to go 400ft higher than the structure. 
 UA stands for Unmanned Aircraft
 RPS stands for Remote Pilot Station
 C2 link stands for Command and Control Link