Earlier this year in January, the Director General of Civil Aviation released a new draft regulating the flight of drones in India, and a few months later, India’s Civil Aviation Minister revealed that the new regulations are in the final stages of formulation. Today, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has officially announced the new laws that will regulate the drone flights in the Indian airspace for personal as well as commercial purpose, and they will go into effect starting December 1st, 2018.

Christened ‘Drone Regulations 1.0’, the new drone flight policies are a part of the Digital Sky Program which is touted to be India’s first national unmanned traffic management platform that will require the drone as well as the pilot to opt for a compulsory one-time registration for the sake of identification.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s official press release states that the drone regulations have been in development for several years, thanks to the rapid evolution in the drone technology, diversification of use case scenarios, and the need for enhanced security measures when it comes to protecting the confines of the Indian airspace.

However, the government has taken a different route for Drone Regulations 1.0 by opting for an all-digital registration and monitoring process, which has been put into place as part of the National Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform. The new drone flight guidelines prioritize a ‘no permission, no takeoff’ (NPNT) policy, which not only requires registration, but also the permission of officials whenever one seeks to fly a drone via an app.

Thanks to the connected platform, any drone would simply not be able to take off if it does not have a valid permit or is trying to enter a restricted airspace. Basically, the UTM will act as a universal air traffic regulator that will work with defense and Civil Air Traffic Controllers (ACT).

As per the rules, all Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) have been classified into five categories based on their weight viz. nano, micro, small, medium and large. With the exception of nano and micro class drones owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies, all drones will be required to register and obtain a Unique Identification Number (UIN). Moreover, except for nano class drones, all other drones will be required to tick the following checkboxes:

  • GNSS (GPS)
  • Return to Home (RTH)
  • Anti-collision light
  • ID Plate
  • Flight controller with flight data logging capability
  • RF ID and SIM/No-Permission No Take-Off (NPNT) compliance

During the initial phase of the law going into effect, drones will only be allowed to operate within the Visual Line of Sight (VLoS) during daytime only, and that too, at a maximum altitude of 400 feet. Also, flying zones will be designated by colors based on the permission to fly drones in certain areas. For example, Red signifies a no-flying zone, Yellow for controlled airspace and Green zones for uncontrolled airspace with automatic flight permission. You can check the complete terms of ‘Drone Regulations 1.0’ here.