Drones are truly marvels of microtechnology. Interested in flying one? Here’s everything you need to know about flying drones in India.
Drones, these tiny flying objects can give you awe-inspiring aerial shots and can also be useful in transporting small items. Their compact size and ability to fly means that drones can also be used in emergency situations, especially at places where human responders cannot go. Despite their many advantages, like any piece of technology, there can also be a downside to it. They could interrupt commercial airspace operations or violate one’s privacy. Hence, governments across the world treat drones with a bit of scepticism.
In India, we have several laws around drones to ensure the safety and security of the citizens.
Earlier this year, guidelines under the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021 were issued by The Ministry of Civil Aviation. The new laws apply to anyone wanting to operate unmanned aircraft in India. The permits and licenses for drones in India differ depending on the machine’s size and type. Here’s a clearer breakdown of that.
Drones that weigh less than or are equal to 250 grams fall under this category. According to the UAS Rules, 2021 Nano Drones are exempt from the permit or license requirement.
Micro and Small Drones
Drones that weigh more than 250 grams but less than or equal to 2 kilograms fall in the category of “micro” drones. Whereas drones weighing above 2 kilograms but less than or equal to 25 kilograms are placed under the “small” category. Pilots of such drones are required to have a UAS Operator Permit-I (UAOP-1) for all flying purposes. The pilots of these drones must adhere to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) as mandated by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The operation of such drones should be within the line of vision and no payload is allowed.
Medium and Large Drones
Drones that fall in the weight bracket of 25 kilograms to 150 kilograms are classified as “medium” drones, while those weighing above 150 kilograms are called “large” drones. For flying both drones, you need UAS Operator Permit-II (UAOP-II). It is important to note that medium and large drones require clearance from Air Traffic and Air Defense control before their flight. Also, these drones are not allowed to be operated indoors. Pilots of such drones need to follow a Safety Management System (SMS) for a safe flight. UAOP-II permit holders can carry goods, including dangerous goods as per the Aircraft (Carriage of Dangerous Goods) Rules, 2003.
UAOP-I and UAOP-II permits are valid for a period of ten years.
Next, understand the types of licences and who can get one
There are two types of licenses that are considered before the issuance of the permit. The two types are Student Remote Pilot License and Remote Pilot License. Do note, the applicant should be 18 or above but below 65 years of age. The applicant must also have passed standard X or equivalent examination.
Student Remote Pilot License is valid for a period of five years and can be issued for a fee by an authorised training organisation. It can be renewed for two more years. Remote Pilot License is issued by DGCA with a validity term of ten years. The licenses are issued on the basis of training and skill tests from an authorised training organization. The Remote Pilot License can be extended for another ten years when expired. In addition to this mandatory license and permits, there are other things that a drone flyer must keep in mind. No drones regardless of the holder’s license and permits can fly in the prohibited areas. Altitudes and speeds are also mentioned for drones depending on their types.
The final detail to keep in mind while indulging in drones in India is that flying the aforementioned drones without a license or permit will result in a penalty. A fine of Rs 25,000 can be imposed on such flyers. Flying a drone above a no operation area will attract a fine of Rs 50,000. Drone manufacturers are also finable if they flaunt the rules.
Disclaimer: Regulations for use of drones in India are consistently subject to change. Please refer to the official portal for regular updates.