Relevance: understanding various dimensions of the newly released draft drone rules
Synopsis: Most important feature of draft drone rules 2021 is the stress on integrating technology with the regulatory framework (regtech)
One of the most important features of the draft drone rules 2021 is how deeply technology has been integrated into the regulatory framework. If implemented as described, this could well be the country’s first working example of ‘regtech’.
How do new drone rules facilitate regtech?
Various features of the draft drone rules signify the integration of technology with the regulatory framework:
Digital Sky platform: Central to this futuristic regulatory framework is the Digital Sky platform, a portal through which almost all compliances relevant to the drone ecosystem are intended to be managed.
|Also Read: Draft Drone Rules 2021|
The new drone regulations also refer to a number of technologies, which, even though unlikely to be in place when the rules come into force, could well be implemented soon. For instance,
- Geo-fencing: to ensure that a drone only flies within a specified set of geospatial coordinates
- Real-time tracking beacons to constantly transmit the live-action speed, location and altitude of a drone
- No-permission-no-take-off technology will completely automate flight approvals in yellow and red zones.
- A framework for drone traffic management that will facilitate the creation of drone corridors—potentially even through red and yellow zones—that can be used by drone delivery companies and emergency services. Once in place, these dedicated corridors will greatly improve the automated delivery of everything, from daily groceries to life-saving medicines, and enable emergency services to rapidly reach people in remote locations.
There are still a number of issues that need to be addressed:
- Large restriction zones: Red zones are defined as those areas over which drone flight will be permitted only under exceptional circumstances, while yellow zones are those within which drone pilots have to coordinate their operations with a relevant air traffic controller.
- If these definitions are interpreted so broadly as to have large restricted zones, drone flights in virtually every part of the country will need prior approvals.
- Sweeping penal consequences in the draft drone regulations: According to Rule 33, any failure to comply is punishable under Section 10(2) of the Aircrafts Act, 1934, a provision that stipulates up to three months imprisonment for offenders.
- Even a minor infraction could land a drone operator in jail. This is a risk that is bound to have a chilling effect on the industry.
- Implementation of digital sky platform: While almost all compliance obligations are intended to be fulfilled through a portal until we actually see Digital Sky in operation, we will not know if the procedures will be automatic and truly presence-less, or still make space for regulatory discretion.
- Prohibition over airports: It is only over airports—where drones can interfere with aircraft operations—that drone operations should be prohibited.
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