Govt issues draft rules for using drones in India

New Delhi: India hopes to frame rules on use of drones, including for commercial purposes, by December end, the aviation ministry said on Wednesday.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will place the draft rules on its website this week and seek comments from the public.

Under the proposed rules, the regulator has classified drones under five categories based on their weight.

Nano drones, or those that weigh less than 250g and are capable of flying not more than 50 feet from the ground level will not need any permission.

Drones above that weight category and up to 2kg and can fly no higher than 200ft will need police permission. The ones weighing more than 2kg will need to apply for permissions, including one from the police, as also a licence and a flight plan.

There will be restriction on flying drones in sensitive areas including around India Gate, international borders, within 500m from strategic locations, from mobile platforms such as car, ship or aircraft, over eco-sensitive zones like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

Government agencies will be free to use drones according to their own guidelines and will not be part of this framework.

The ministry had first issued guidelines for drones last year but they have not been implemented yet.

The government hopes to put the rules in place by 31 December.

“The general interest was always there. Not having regulation was amounting to a total ban. That did not make sense,” aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said at a press conference on Wednesday, “It can also be very useful in humanitarian causes like for delivery of blood.”

Drones can also be used for commercial purposes but it’s not clear how this will be implemented.

In the US, firms such as Amazon are experimenting with delivering packages with the help of drones.

In India, e-commerce delivery companies pay about Rs15 to the delivery boys for every delivery, creating thousands of jobs in the process.

“Pizza delivery and apparel delivery from Amazon will not work here because the traffic management will become a big mess and this will create chaos and DGCA will not be able to handle this madness. There are 50,000 deliveries made by e-commerce companies like Amazon, Flipkart Dominos in Delhi alone every day. You are going to kill a lot of jobs. This is their bread and butter,” said John Livingstone, CEO of Johnnette Technologies, a firm that deals with drones.

The rules will certainly benefit medical industry for blood delivery, organ transportation, first aid kit delivery as also for providing food packets during disaster management, he said adding more preparation is still needed.

“They have also not emphasized on drone pilot training and drone traffic management systems. We need to prepare more for this,” he said.