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Daily Editorial – Drones in India

Drones in India

Drones are taking off in India, the growth is tremendous, but buyers are often unaware of the legal turbulence that may lie ahead. Delhi Police this month detained three foreigners in southwest Delhi’s Dwarka area for operating a drone from their terrace. Four people were arrested in Varanasi for filming Ganga aarti through drone cameras at the Dashashwamedha Ghat without permission.

What is a Drone?

Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASes). Essentially, a drone is a flying robot. The aircrafts may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS.

Applications of Drones

Apart from the obvious military applications, drones have several important non-military applications as well.

  • Topography surveying: Mining, roads and railway development, urban planning, asset management, land records, large construction sites, and stockpile/quarry management;
  • Industrial inspections: Solar power plants, power transmission lines, telecom towers and chimneys; and
  • Precision agriculture: Crop stress mapping, health assessment, and Chlorophyll mapping.
  • Search and Rescue: In search and rescue operations call in a micro-drone as air support! When fire-fighting, for example, we can determine the proportion of any particular gas present using sophisticated measuring equipment and react appropriately.
  • Security:Protect the public with micro-drones! Many authorities worldwide are already using our aerial platforms – for example to help coordinate security operations or preserve evidence.
  • Science and Research: With a micro-drone you can break through barriers into areas which previously would scarcely have been within reach. Observe a volcanic eruption from the sky or document an archaeological excavation.
  • E-Commerce Delivery: Amazon Prime Service is already doing trials in the US.

Challenges with Drones

The rapid adoption of drones has sparked complaints and concerns.

  1. From a privacy standpoint, drones have been used by voyeurs and paparazzi to obtain images of individuals in their homes or other locations once assumed to be private. Drones have also been deployed in areas deemed to be potentially unsafe, such as urban areas and near airports.
  2. Growth in commercial and personal drones has also created numerous safety concerns, namely mid-air collisions and loss of control.
  3. Specific concerns about drones flying too close to commercial aircraft prompted calls for regulation.
  4. The drones have already fallen into dangerous hands, ISIS in Iraq and Syria have learnt to harness drone tech to their advantage – a customized commercial variant has been used as a bomb in Iraq.
  5. The matter becomes more urgent when discussing questions of national security. Given the current tense political climate andIndia’s long hostile relationship with its neighbours China and Pakistan, India cannot put its security at risk by letting UAVs fly freely on its airspace.

Countering a Drone

As drones of several sizes have increased across domains, several start-ups have started to do research to solve the problem. It is imperative because several air pilots have spoken of witnessing drones at dangerously close distances.

Tokyo Drone Incident: In 2015 a drone with traces of radiation was found on the roof of residence of Japanese PM, which wasn’t detected for 12 days.

While billions have been spent on ballistic missile defence, little attention has been paid to the threats posed by the UAVs.

Swiss Police has developed Drone Jammers, US Navy have built a system that fires infrared beam of tuneable power and can either warn or incapacitate the sensor of a drone target or destroy it. Boeing has developed a Laser Weapon system.

Drone Policy in India:

There are growing calls to regulate and monitor the use and users of drones to minimise the risk of criminal or terrorist activity. In pursuance, DGCA has issued Drone policy in India, which doesn’t ban drones but regulates the usage of it through the following rules and regulations.

1) Issuance of unique identification number (UIN):

All unmanned aircraft to be operated in India will require a Unique Identification Number (UIN) issued from the DGCA. This will be granted only to citizens of India, or a company or body that is registered and has its principal place of business in India, its chairman and two-thirds of directors are citizens of India and its ownership and effective control is in the hands of Indian nationals.

  1. To own a drone:
  • Documentation needed: address proof, statement of purpose of operation of UA, specification of the drone including (manufacturer name, type, model number, year of manufacture, weight and size, type of propulsion system, flying capabilities in terms of maximum endurance, range and height, equipment capabilities etc.), police clearance of character, permission for all frequencies used in drone operations from the Department of Telecommunications.
  • Fireproof ID Plate on drone: Finally, users will also be required to make a fireproof identification plate and inscribe it with the UIN and an RFID tag, or put a SIM on the UA to for identification.
  • One cannot import a drone as customs department will not clear it. Only those having permission on government letterheads get approval

Once all these steps are complete, a user is entitled only to own a drone

  1. To fly a drone:
  • Permit: a user will require DGCA’s UA drone operator permit for flying above 200 feet, or a permit from the local administration for below 200 feet i.e., drones that fly below 200 feet do not require DGCA’s license, rather only permission from the local administration.

Indian Air Force is about to reveal Airborne Early Warning and Control System which wil be on the lookout for drones, fighter jets, and cruise missiles into India territory from Pakistan and China.

Way forward:

The best counter-drone system is yet to be made, and there is furious research going on world over for this. Several countries have already incorporated drone-detection systems in high profile events; we are still struck in age old regulations.

India must soon master not only development of these technologies but also how to use their capabilities.

The Drone policy in India is awfully inadequate, India needs to learn and act fast.


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