While flying drone in India is not illegal, there are certain regulatory restrictions in India that you must be aware of before you make a hefty investment in buying a drone. Further, you must have a clear understanding of all operational and regulatory issues, to avoid landing into deep trouble, like, your drone being confiscated by police, you being charged by local police under Indian Penal Code (IPC), etc.
Before we delve deep into these regulations and government restrictions on using drones, it is important for you to understand few technical terms.
Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS): What we commonly know as ‘Drones’, are actually UAS which are operated with no pilot on board. It can be of three types: (a) Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA); (b) Autonomous Aircraft; and (c) Model Aircraft.
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA): RPA can be of the following types, based on their maximum All-Up-Weight (AUP) which includes payload:
- Nano (up to 250 grams);
- Micro (>250 grams – up to 2 kg);
- Small (>2 kg – up to 25 kg);
- Medium (>25 kg – up to 150 kg); and
- Large (>150 kg).
Uncontrolled airspace is where an Air Traffic Control (ATC) service is not necessary or cannot be provided for practical reasons.
NPNT: a software programme that enables every RPA (except Nano) to obtain a valid permissions through Digital Sky Platform before operating in India.
Digital Sky Platform: an online IT platform developed for handling UIN, UAOP applications, permission to fly drones in India, available on DGCA website www.dgca.nic.in.
No-drone Zone: Areas over which flying a drone is prohibited/ restricted. See the list of no-drone zones in Civil Aviation Requirements.
Remote Pilot: a person above 18 years age with necessary ground/practical training from DGCA approved Flying Training Organization (FTO), vested with certain duties essential to the operation of RPA and who manipulates the flight controls, as appropriate, during flight time.
Visual Line of Sight: Generally 450m (unaided) in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) with a minimum ground visibility of 5 km.
AGL: Above Ground Level
CAR: Civil Aviation Requirements
DGCA: Directorate General of Civil Aviation
DoT: Department of Telecommunications
ETA: Equipment Type Approval
IPC: Indian Penal Code
MoD: Ministry of Defence
NPNT: No Permission-No Takeoff
UAOP: Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit
UIN: Unique Identification Number
WPC: Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing of
Before You Start Operating a Drone
Assuming that you have purchased the drone locally within India, you need to adhere to the following regulatory requirements to operate a drone:
- ensure that it has ETA from WPC Wing of DoT for operating in de-licensed frequency band(s). Your seller or manufacturer of RPA, should be able to provide you ETA;
- obtain NPNT compliance certificate from OEM/manufacturer;
- apply for UIN by making a payment of INR 1000 and submitting certain document and information on Digital Sky Platform;
- apply for UAOP through Digital Sky platform by making a payment of INR 25,000.
Please note that UAOP is not transferable. Further, as it is valid only for a period of five years from the date of issuance, you may have to renew it each time using same procedures and paying an additional fee of INR 10,000.
Do you need to obtain UIN and UAOP always?
UIN is not required, if you are buying a Nano RPS for flying it up to 50 feet (15 meters) above ground level (AGL) in Uncontrolled airspace or enclosed premises.
UAOP is not required for: (a) Nano RPA operating below 50 feet AGL, and (b) Micro RPA operating below 200 feet (60 meters) in Uncontrolled airspace or enclosed premises.
Do I also need to obtain Remote Pilot License?
Although, you do not require remote pilot license to fly drone as of now, you need to undergo minimum training requirements specified in the CAR on “Requirements for Operation of Civil RPAS”.
Please note that remote pilot training is not applicable for Nano and Micro category RPA pilots intending to operate in Uncontrolled airspace. However, the owner and user should be fully aware of responsibilities for all aspects of flight safety during such operations.
When You are Operating a Drone
CAR, as issued by the DGCA now applies to RPAs as well, with effect from 1st December, 2018. The applicability of CAR would depend on the type of drone you are operating.
Let’s jump to what are the common DOs and DON’Ts for operating drones in India.
- Inscribe a fireproof identification plate with UIN affixed on RPA, and ensure that it remains firmly affixed during all routine handling and operating conditions. The UIN on the plate should be readily accessible and legible upon close visual inspection.
- Obtain permission before each flight through Digital Sky Platform. You can file flight plan online through Digital Sky Platform. Procedure for filing flight plan is available in Digital Sky Manual.
- Ensure that no other manned or unmanned aircraft is flying nearby.
- Fly the drone only during daylight (after sunrise to before sunset) and in good weather conditions;
- Fly in visual line of sight which mean that you should always be within visual range of your drone;
- Respect privacy of people;
- Obtain necessary permission from the owner of private property/building, if you intend to use the drone in or over their premises.
- Keep local police informed about your drone flying activity. If you are confronted by a police, you should be able to provide all requisite information.
- The take-off and landing areas should be properly segregated from public access.
- Keep a distance of at least 25 km from international border which includes Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).
- Don’t fly drones more than 400 feet (120 meters) from the AGL;
- Don’t fly drone over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people without permission;
- Don’t fly drone in controlled airspace near airports without filing flight plan or AAI/ADC permission (at least 24 hours before actual operation);
- Don’t act as a remote pilot for more than one RPA operation at a time;
- Don’t fly drone over no-drone zone, unless you have obtained authorization from DGCA, which can be give on case-to-case basis subject to approval of MoD.
Other Regulatory Provisions
- If your drone is damaged and cannot be restored to original condition, notify DGCA for cancellation of UIN.
- If you are buying a new drone, you cannot use the same UIN allotted for the earlier drone that you owned, even though the model and make may be the same. You will have to apply for a fresh UIN.
- If your contact details (as specified at the time of obtaining UIN) changes, immediately notify the new contact details to DGCA and all other concerned agencies;
- Except for Nano RPA, you should maintain records of each RPA flight and each repair/maintenance of it, and should be able to produce these records, if demanded by DGCA.
- Don’t sell or dispose off RPA (with UIN) to any person or firm without permission from DGCA. If you intend to sell your RPA, you should first cancel the existing UIN issued in your name, and then the buyer has to apply for a fresh UIN through Digital Sky Platform.
- As drones are restricted item, it can’t be carried in hand baggage when travelling by flight.
- If you have lost your drone, please lodge an FIR immediately in local police and report occurrence in Digital Sky along with a copy of FIR.
What actions can be taken against you, if you violate these regulations?
If you do not adhere to the above regulations, your UIN/UAOP issued by DGCA can be suspended or cancelled.
Non-compliance with any of the regulatory requirements (and falsification of records/ documents) can attract penal action against you, including imposition of penalties under Section 287, 336, 337, 338 or other relevant provisions of IPC, or Aircraft Act 1934 or Aircraft Rules 1937 or any statutory provisions.
What is the minimum amount of insurance I need for my drone?
DGCA has not stipulated any requirement on minimum amount of insurance for any category of drone. All civil RPA operators shall have insurance with the liability that they might incur for any damage to third party resulting from the accident/incident.
What permissions do I need to use micro drone legally for wedding photography?
- First of all you need to obtain UIN.
- Secondly, if you are going to fly RPA below 200 ft. above the ground in Uncontrolled airspace/ enclosed premises, you need not obtain UAOP.
- Please ensure that your drone is NPNT compliant. If it is not, you may have to obtain permission through Digital Sky Platform of DGCA before flying.
- You should intimate the local police office at least 24 hours prior to conduct of actual operations.
- Please be aware that all drone operations in India are restricted to daylight and within visual line of sight. However, if you are shooting in well-lit enclosed premises using micro drone up to 200 feet AGL, it is permitted.
- Ensure that you follow Do’s and Don’ts and respect individuals’ privacy.
Author: Vivek Verma