Drone policy set to be relaxed as IAF goes for counter-rogue tech

SourceBusiness Standard 

Relevance: After a small attack by drones on the Indian Army’s base, drone policies are being reconsidered.

Synopsis: India is expected to further liberalise drone regulations. It will be easing the process of getting licence as well as doing business for operators. 

Background 
  • The decision to simplify the licensing requirements, relax operational curbs and reduce penalties for operators was taken at a meeting chaired by PM last week. The decision came just days after terror attack in Jammu using drones. 
  • The new rules will supersede the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rules 2021, that came into effect only in March. This move will open up the sector more.  
  • The Indian Air Force has been tasked with procuring and developing counter drone technology to tackle the problem of rogue drones. 
  • DRDO has developed a counter-drone technology that uses methods like jamming and hard kill systems to detect and neutralise the danger from such aerial attacks.  
  • The IAF has sought to purchase 10 Counter Unmanned Aircraft System (CUASs) known as anti-drone systems in common parlance specifically from Indian vendors. 
Why the government is working on liberalised drone rules? 

First, though there were concerns about the security aspect of drones. Top government officials perceive that restricting the drone industry would hamper the growth of a sunrise sector that holds significant promise for future. 

  • Second, there were multiple complaints from the drone industry that the current rules were not convenient and instead increased compliance burden for operators. 
  • For instance, under the regulations that were unveiled in March, a drone operator required 23 permissions from multiple government agencies to operate a drone. 
  • Even for testing a drone, permission was required from the police and Indian Air Force.  
  • Such provisions lead to administrative bottlenecks and a never-ending process of obtaining approvals. 
  • Third, the current rules also mandate high technical requirements like geo fencing capability and collision avoidance system. Such systems are costly for manufacturers as most of them have started business around five to six years ago. 
  • Fourth, the concept of safety by certification, similar to manned aircraft has not been considered. For instance, a helicopter does not have any equipment for its main rotor but is still certified to fly over people in complex urban environments. Such a consideration seems to have been ignored for drones. 
  • Fifth, the new policy is also likely to reverse the ban on commercial use of drones for food or good delivery, according to sources. 
Way forward 
  • Stricter regulations would only prove to be detrimental for the nation’s plan to develop advanced technological capabilities. 
  • No strict or liberal drone regulations can stop any miscreants from assembling a drone and using it for malicious activities. 
  • Drones are the future of aviation, logistics, surveillance and warfare. The government should offer continued support to the drone ecosystem. 
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