Drones are the future. It is one of the latest innovations and ubiquitously used gadget for capturing images in a wedding or a cricket match. Drones are easily available on online stores and can be readily used. Amazon, the major e-commerce website has used a drone to deliver a bag of popcorn to an address in rural England which is by far the boldest step taken in terms of automating deliveries1. But the fact that flying drones without a license in India can land you in jail, is unknown to a lot of the drone flyers. Flying a drone in India is illegal but the selling of drone is not2.
Drones and its legality in India
Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs or drones, have decentralised airspaces access, allowing agriculturists, construction workers, and other civilian users to assimilate aerial monitoring into their daily work3. Drones are unmanned aircraft that can fly autonomously without a human in control4. Furthermore, drones can be defined as aircraft without pilots on board, whose flight (speed, navigation, aerobatics, etc.) are controlled by onboard computers that are in turn directed by remote human operators.
As per the public notice issued on 07.10.2014 the Director General of Civil Aviation (hereinafter called DGCA) has prohibited the use of any UAV for any purpose whatsoever by any non-governmental agency or an individual. This is because the International Civil Aviation Organisation is yet to publish rules for the standard and practices and thus for protection against the security threats, use of UAV is not allowed in India. Furthermore, Press Note No.3 (2014) released by the Department of Industry Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industrial license for manufacturing laid down a list of electronic aerospace and defences equipment which required an industrial license for manufacturing. This also includes UAV that is drones.
Furthermore, in April 2016 the Indian draft guidelines5 by DGCA dealt with these issues although it is yet to see the daylight. The guidelines mentioned flying of drones keeping in mind the recreational as well as R&D scope of them apart from being used for surveillance and commercial purposes. All UAV requires a Unique Identification Number (UIN) issued by the DGCA. This UIN can be granted only to a citizen of India or to accompany that is incorporated and has its principal place of business in India. For this, you will need to have an address proof, a permit from the police and the telecom department. Once you have submitted the docs, the UIN will be generated for you which then needs to be installed on your device before you fly it6. As said, it can be a lengthy, official process before you can actually fly your drone. You need to apply for a permission from a civil or defence Air Navigation System (ANS) provider7. If you are flying your drone over any property, you need to get permissions from the property/land owner8. You also need to get a security clearance from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security of India9. Be it a recreation or commercial drone, you need all the permissions. The DGCA guidelines also state that the owners need to have insurance for their drones with the liability that they might have to deal with for any damage.
Drones are our future. We are moving towards the era where drones will be used for delivery of goods, agriculture, photography and so many other aspects of life which are currently limited to us now. As the concept of drones is very new and the world has not seen the consequences, therefore, drones are accepted to be a blessing as well as a curse and this is a curse that may cause immeasurable harm to the safety and security. As mentioned in public notice issued on 07.10.2014, this may pose threat to the safety and security as well as due to lack of regulation, operating procedures/standards and uncertainty of the technology, UAS poses threat for air collations and accidents. Furthermore, the use of drones was mainly for military or defence purposes. Since gradually the purpose of its use shifted and drones were used for commercial purposes, the government saw a security threat from these UAVs thereby banning their flight without approval. Drones have to stand the test of time and only this can help to regulate proper regulations and use of drones intensively, as we imagine to do.
- Arindam Majumdar, Drones to be Legal in India soon: Check out the New Norms, Business Standards, November 2, 2017.
- Swati, Flying a Drone in India- Rules and Regulations, (1.11.2017), https://www.startupworld.com/news/technology-news/flying-a-drone-in-india-rules-and-regulations-things-to-know/.
- Ananth Padmanabhan, Civilian Drones and India’s Regulatory Response, (10.03.2017), http://carnegieindia.org/2017/03/10/civilian-drones-and-india-s-regulatory-response-pub-68218.
- Anubhav Pandey, Legality of Drones in India, (6.04.2017), https://blog.ipleaders.in/legality-of-drones-in-india/.
- Supra note 2.