Recently, civil aviation ministry has announced a policy and guidelines for drones
What are drones?
The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) defines drones or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) as an unmanned aircraft piloted from a remote pilot station.
Classification of drones:
DGCA has classified drones as:
- Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams.
- Micro: From 250 grams to 2kg.
- Small: From 2kg to 25kg.
- Medium: From 25kg to 150kg.
- Large: Greater than 150kg.
Application of Drones:
- Defense: Drones are been extensively used in defence sector. They can be put to use for different missions such as surveillance, battlefield reconnaissance, artillery correction, target tracking etc.
- Drone like Prox Dynamics is quite famous for military use around the world, including the US Marines, the British Army, the Australian Army, and Norway’s Armed Forces for exploration.
- Important drones in India include Lakshya, Daksh, Rustom
- Agriculture: Drones are able to provide live data from a range of sensors (including multispectral, NIR and lidar) and help in precision agriculture. In supporting precision farming, drones can do soil health scans, monitor crop health, assist in planning irrigation schedules, apply fertilizers, estimate yield data and provide valuable data for weather analysis.
Example: Companies such as Skymet are using drones to provide agriculture survey services to insurance companies and the state governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
- Wildlife Conservation: Drones fitted with high definition thermal cameras are used to track, inspect and monitor livestock remotely.
For example: The government of Assam has partnered with Tata Consulting Services (TCS) to use drones to conduct surveillance, identify unauthorized settlements and to deter poachers in Kaziranga National Park
- Digital Mining: Drones have helped solve challenges in the mining industry: better blast optimization, improved safety, faster surveying, and construction of the comprehensive and continuous project datasets.
- Rescue and Search during disasters: Drones can scan affected areas with their thermographic cameras to locate missing persons. Their reduced dimensions allow them to go to places that are hard to reach and find isolated persons; they can also deliver food and water to survivors.
- Urban Planning: Drones provide instant mapping and ready to use data which aid in urban planning. For example: can help city planners to decide which areas may benefit most from green space, without causing further congestion.
- Healthcare: Drones can help in quick access to drugs, blood, and medical technology in remote areas. For example: Companies like Zipline International have especially designed drones to deliver medical services in rural areas throughout in countries like Africa and other remote parts of the world.
- Weather Forecasting: Drones can help provide real time data of weather events.
Example: A company called Saildrone has developed autonomous sailboat drone that can collect oceanic and atmospheric data from the ocean surface which can be used aftermath to understand the environment and imminent weather trends.
- WasteManagement: Drones can help city administrators to identify where the garbage is so that it can be picked up the garbage picking vans. It can be also used to clean ocean waste For example: UAV like Roomba by RanMarine have helped to clean oceans.
- Inspections – Many systems such as power lines, wind turbines, and pipelines can be checked by drones.
- Surveillance – A drone allows recording and monitoring from the sky, and therefore, they are suitable to monitor public events, protests, or any suspicious happening without being heard and seen. A great tool for the police!
- Science & research– They help scientists a lot in research works to observe different occurrences in nature or a particular environment from the sky. For example, drones are used to document the archaeological excavations, in nuclear accidents (measuring contamination), in glacier surveillance, to observe a volcanic eruption, etc.
- E-Commerce Delivery: Example Amazon prime in USA has been delivering products to customers using drones
Drone Regulation in India:
- The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), in 2014, prohibited the use of drones in India for civil purposes. In April 2016, the DGCA released its initial draft guidelines for drone regulation followed by the updated draft guidelines in November 2017.
Government of India’s Ministry of Civil aviation recently announced guidelines on drones which will come into effect from 1 December 2018
Key features of “Drone Regulations 1.0”:
- Digital Sky platform to be established: It is the national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements a ‘no permission, no takeoff’ system for remotely piloted aircraft.
- The UTM platform operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on approved flight paths.
- Users will be required to make one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners on the platform, which will also allow for online filing of a drone’s specific flight path and use.
- Other than nano, all other categories of drones need to be registered with the government and issued with a Unique Identification Number (UIN).
- Beyond these permissions, an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) is also required for drone operators, except for nano-drones operating below 50 feet and micro-drones operating below 200 feet.
- Air space has been divided into different zones.
- Red Zone: Flying not permitted
- Yellow Zone: Controlled airspace — permission required before flying
- Green Zone: Uncontrolled airspace — automatic permission
- There are also specific regions around the country that have been marked as ‘No Drone Zones’.
Drone regulations 2.0
The government has announced that it will soon come up with Drone Regulations 2.0 Policy. Key issues to be addressed there would include:
- Certifications of sale and controlled operation of drone hardware and software
- Airspace management through automated operations linked into the overall airspace
- Beyond visual-line-of-sight operations
- Contribution to establishing global standards
Issues with the Guidelines
- Critics are of the opinion that since the Centre has not allowed the use of drones for delivery of goods and food items, it will hinder its usage in the e-commerce and logistics industry.
- Critics have also criticised the blanket restriction on the height limit of 400 feet. According to them, this would restrict the drones to amateur usage only and would hinder its use in mapping or surveying
Issues related to use of drones:
- Surveillance by means of drones raises significant issues for privacy and civil liberties
- Drones being turned into potential weapons by criminals/ terrorists are another serious issue
- Biggest safety threat from drones is potential collisions with airplanes.While most airports ban drones from flying near them, such rules may potentially be hard to enforce and cause serious damages.
- Data theft/ Hacking: Drones can not only be hacked in flight, causing them to crash, the craft also can be used for stealing sensitive information from the public.
- There are also ethical and legal issues related to drone warfare. USA has used drones for targeted killing of suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen; AfghanistanThe growing number of civilian casualties has raised the question of the efficacy of drone strikes in killing militants and also on human rights.
- Irresponsible drone use could cause harm to birds by disrupting nests, provoking attacks and midair collisions
- Regulation on use of drones in India should be effectively implemented to foster technology and innovation in the development of dronesand improve the ease of doing business, by sidelining unnecessary requirements and creating a single-window process.
- The government should ensure protection of privacy of citizens by limiting the use of drones for surveillance.
- Possibilities of drone-related accidents should be minimized by strict enforcement of regulations
- It is important to use drones responsibly to minimize negative impacts on wildlife, including birds