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Rules for civilian use of drones soon

Aviation regulator DGCA to issue notification laying down regulations by the end of this month.

Written by Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai |
Updated: December 14, 2016 3:15:20 am

The use of drones for weddings and parties may soon be approved, with the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) set to issue a notification on the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for civilian purposes this month.

While the draft guidelines on civil drones were released in April this year, sources say the notification laying down the rules and regulations of their usage will be issued by the end of this month. With technology being viewed as a vital investment by the government in the fight against terrorism, the use of drones was discussed at the recent meeting of top police officers of the country in Hyderabad.

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Maharashtra Police chief Satish Mathur gave a presentation on the use of drones, especially to control highway traffic. “One of the issues discussed at the DGPs’ conference was that of drones. In my presentation on highway technology, I spoke on the use of drones to measure density and update the traffic control room, so they can issue diversions,” Mathur said. “The Centre is soon going to issue a protocol on drones and how to use them, because if they are not regulated, others (anti-social elements) can use them too,” Mathur said.

According to the draft rules, a UAS consists of an Unmanned Aircraft (UA), a Remote Pilot Station (RPS), Command and Control (C2) Link, the maintenance system and the operating personnel. Unmanned Aircraft are either pilotless or do not carry pilot(s) on board.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft are various types of unmanned aircraft.

According to the aviation watchdog, civilians can use drones to assess damage to property during natural calamities, for surveys, critical infrastructure monitoring including power facilities, ports and pipelines, commercial photography, aerial mapping, etc. “They are also increasingly proliferating into recreational fields and are likely to be used in many other domains,” the proposed rules say.

While a civil drone operating below 200 feet does not require UA Operator Permit (UAOP), the drone operator is to get a Unique Identification Number (UIN) from the DGCA. The proposed rule also states: “Civil UA operations below 200ft above ground level (AGL) in uncontrolled airspace and clear of notified prohibited, restricted and danger areas as well as Temporary Segregated Areas (TSA) and Temporary Reserved Areas (TRA). In addition, the operator shall obtain permission from local administration, the concerned ADC,” it reads. “Model aircraft operating below 200ft AGL in uncontrolled airspace & indoor UA for recreational purposes only. (Aero modelling activities carried out within the premises of educational institutions will be considered as recreational purposes)”, it says.

Sources in intelligence agencies have expressed apprehensions over the rule that says no UAOP is required for drones flying below 200 feet.

“In the absence of ‘anti-drone’ technology (a system that can remotely identify UAVs and bring them down in cases where they being misused) and with the UAVs not emitting carbon, a hot pursuit of a rogue drone is not possible. Therefore, the local police will be burdened with the additional task of monitoring such aerial objects,” said an official. “While it is easy to bring down an enemy plane flying in a no-man’s land, a drone operating in a city cannot be brought down using fire power,” he said.

The draft also states that for using civil drones at or above 200 feet in an uncontrolled airspace, the operator having a UIN would require to get clearances from civil and defence agencies, permission of the land/ property owner, details of remote pilot(s) and training records, insurance details if applicable, and security clearance of firms/ operator of the UA.

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