Planning to fly a drone? Brush up on these regulations before you do

If you're thinking of becoming a drone pilot, here are some guidelines you may need to remember.
Planning to fly a drone? Brush up on these regulations before you do
Flying a drone will require you to obtain a licence from India's Ministry of Civil Aviation.The Bridge Chronicle

Drones are the future of technology. And why wouldn't they be? They're not only cool and futuristic, but they can also do a lot within a short amount of time. Several businesses are coming up with the option of possible drone delivery in the near future. In fact, after the Covid-19 lockdown, we've also witnessed efforts of Maharashtra Police, who skillfully imbibed the use of drone technology into surveillance.

Flying a drone will require you to obtain a licence from India's Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Humorous yet effective: Indian police’s use of tech to combat COVID-19

In 2021, we're hearing talks about drones delivering Covid-19 vaccines in India. And of course, there are always talks of flying food delivery due to start in major cities.

Flying a drone will require you to obtain a licence from India's Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Soon drones will deliver COVID-19 vaccine in India

However, even if you don't have a business of your own that requires a drone, you could merely be interested in photography that demands it. Whether you're getting paid or it is a passion you wish to hone, drone photography promises marvellous shots, and we're all for it. What kind of footage can it capture for you, you ask? Take a look at the video below for a closer look at drone photography:

But yes, of course, India's Ministry of Civil Aviation may have permitted the usage of drones in the country — there are still several guidelines you will need to follow. If you're not yet sure about how to go about drones, we have a comprehensive guide lined up for you below. Here's what you need to know about them:

Drone categories

Drones come in various categories and sizes, which are listed below. As a pilot, you will be required to obtain a license for every one of these categories except nano. According to UAV Coach, these are the five categories of drones available in India.

  • Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams (.55 pounds)

  • Micro: From 250 grams (.55 pounds) to 2kg (4.4 pounds)

  • Small: From 2kg (4.4 pounds) to 25kg (55 pounds)

  • Medium: From 25kg (55 pounds) to 150kg (330 pounds)

  • Large: Greater than 150kg (33 pounds)

Do you need equipment to fly a drone?

Yes, you do! Drone flying in India uses specific types of equipment that are mandatory for every pilot. These are mandatory for every category except the nano-sized drone. Here are some of them:

  • GPS

  • Return-to-home (RTH)

  • Anti-collision light

  • ID plate

  • A flight controller with flight data logging capability

  • RF-ID and SIM/No Permission No Takeoff (NPNT)

Drone flying regulations in India

Nano Drones: There is no license or permit required for drones weighing less than or equal to 250 grams.

Micro or Small Drones: Micro or Small-sized drones weigh as much as 250 grams and less than or equal to 25 kilograms. So, whether you require it for personal, recreational or commercial reasons, you need the UAS Operator Permit-I (UAOP-I). The license helps the pilot follow some Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) provided by an authorised UAS operator and accepted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). They should be limited to visual line of sight, and the pilot should testify that the drone is not carrying hazardous goods. That said, a pilot shouldn't attempt any drone delivery without UAOP-I.

Medium and Large Drones: Medium or Large-sized drones weighing more than 25 kilograms require the UAS Operator Permit-II (UAOP-II). As mentioned above, all proceedings involving these drones should be conducted following the Operations Manual prepared by an approved UAS operator and supported by the DGCA.

Pilots will require a Safety Management System in place — and prior clearance from Air Traffic and Air Defence Control. In this category, carriage of dangerous goods, BVLOS operations, and drone deliveries are allowed — of course, that is subjected to clearance by the DGCA.

Pilots will require a Safety Management System in place — and prior clearance from Air Traffic and Air Defence Control. In this category, carriage of dangerous goods, BVLOS operations, and drone deliveries are allowed — of course, that is subjected to clearance by the DGCA.

Restrictions to keep in mind

  • No Micro drone shall fly beyond a height of 60 meters above ground level (AGL) or a maximum speed of 25 meters per second (m/s).

  • No Small drone shall fly beyond a height of 120 meter AGL or a maximum speed of 25 m/s.

  • Medium or Large drones shall fly in accordance with the conditions specified in the Operator Permit issued by the DGCA.

  • Prohibited areas are strictly off-limits, while for restricted areas, prior permission from the DGCA is required.

Decoding the 'permission' policy

Despite having your licenses in place, as a pilot, you'd need permission from the Digital Sky Platform before you fly your drone. Known as the "No Permission, No Takeoff" system, this mobile app automatically processes a request and grants or rejects it. Without this permission, your drone will not take off.

Exemptions

Most of these regulations are non-negotiable. However, the Central Government can spare any Ministry, Department, or a government-affiliated agency — at both the central and state level — from the requirements of a drone operator permit if it is in the national interest or if it helps to uphold the security of the country.

No-fly zones

Several zones in India are considered no-fly zones. Here's a list of places where you can't fly your drones in India:

  • Within a distance of 5 KM from the perimeter of international airports at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad

  • Within a distance of 3 KM from the perimeter of any civil, private, or defence airports

  • Within 25 KM from the international border which includes Line of Control (LoC), Line of Actual Control (LAC), and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL)

  • Within 3 KM from the perimeter of military installations/facilities without clearance

  • Within 5 KM radius from Vijay Chowk in Delhi

  • Within 2 KM from the perimeter of strategic locations/vital installations notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs, unless clearance is obtained

  • Within a 3 KM radius of State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals

  • Beyond 500 MT (horizontal) into the sea from the coastline, provided the location of the ground station is on a fixed platform on land

  • From a moving vehicle or ship or any kind of makeshift floating platforms

  • Over eco-sensitive zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries without prior permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

  • Within permanent or temporary Prohibited, Restricted and Danger areas

Also, it is important to note that violating someone's privacy with a drone is considered a criminal offence. So, the next time you're ready with your controller, make sure you look up to see if you're flying safe!

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