The government has prepared a policy on the commercial use of drones that curbs the range and height of their operation and requires operators to obtain remote pilot licences in some cases.
Drones can be deployed in India for commercial purposes from December but within the line of sight of the person operating it, the government said on Monday.
“The reason behind the policy is to ensure that these flying objects do not become unidentified flying objects,” Union minister for civil aviation Suresh Prabhu said. “We have started with this and will be working continuously to ensure that the policy evolves with time.”
According to the announcement, drones can be used up to a height of 400 feet. “We will allow use of drones within the line of sight for now. We have a taskforce that would in the future work towards allowing use of drones for beyond the line of sight,” said Jayant Sinha, minister of state for civil aviation.
Online marketplaces Amazon and Flipkart, which had plans to use drones to deliver goods, will now have to wait until the government frames rules with less stringent conditions. Amazon is testing its drone delivery service at various overseas locations. It envisages delivery of packages up to 5 pounds (2.25 kg) in 30 minutes or less using small drones.
Under India’s policy, drones have been categorised into five categories based on weight – starting at less than 250 grams and with the largest weighing more than 150 kg – and their use. Barring the nano category of drones, which is the smallest, other categories of drones – micro, small, medium and large – need to be registered.
Nano drones used by children for recreation don’t need to be registered. Users of small, medium and large drones will have to register as pilots. The age eligibility for piloting a drone is 18 years and the educational qualification is class 10 pass with knowledge of English.
These remote pilot licences are exempted for operators of nano and micro (over 250 grams to 2 kg) drones. The government said a digital platform will be set up for users to take permission before operating drones and to manage drone traffic.
“The Digital Sky Platform is the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management platform that ensures easier and faster permission, even from local police, for drone users,” said BS Bhullar, chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the regulator.
Aviation secretary RN Choubey said the government is working with the home ministry to ensure that all police stations at the district headquarters level are added to the digital platform for faster and easier approvals to use drones. In the US, drones are required to be registered, flown at or below 400 feet and within line of sight of the user, among other conditions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website.
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