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India to allow the commercial usage of drones from December 1 this year

 In a significant move, India will allow the commercial usage of drones from December 1 this year, but users will have to seek permission to fly them on a mobile app, after which an automated process will permit or deny the request instantly.

This will be done across sectors like agriculture, health and disaster relief under the new regulations, but the delivery of payload, including food items, will not be allowed as of now, news agency reports said. The flight of drones is expected to be of huge significance particularly in future scenarios where there is a natural disaster such as the Kerala floods.

As per the regulation, there are five categories of drones, known in official parlance as Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) — categorised by weight, namely nano, micro, small, medium and large. No permission needs be taken if the drone is a nano one (smallest category in weight).

The airspace has also been partitioned into Red Zone (flying not permitted), Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and Green Zone (automatic permission). All RPAS except nano and those owned by the NTRO, ARC and Central intelligence agencies will be registered and issued with an Unique Identification Number (UIN), the government said Monday. The “No Drone Zones” include areas around airports, near the international border, Vijay Chowk in New Delhi (with Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament

House and the North and South Blocks nearby); the state secretariat complex in state capitals, strategic locations and certain vital military installations. “To prevent unauthorised flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take off,” the government said.

Unveiling the regulations, civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu said: “Today we start an exciting new chapter in India’s aviation history by allowing the commercial use of drones. I am sure many new and exciting applications will emerge that will propel India’s economy forward. Our progressive regulations will encourage a vast Made in India drone industry.” He also reportedly said relief efforts in Kerala would have been much more effective had the regulation been in place by now.

MoS civil aviation Jayant Sinha said: “We are likely to go from travelling in autorickshaws to air rickshaws. There is a wide range of application of drones, from disaster relief, surveillance, security monitoring, precision agriculture, precision logistics.”

Asked about the delivery of food items, Mr Sinha said a second set of regulations, which will be finalised later, may allow their delivery based on the outcome of tests. While drones can be used for agricultural purposes, they can’t be used for spraying pesticides until specifically cleared. Besides, the carriage of explosives and animals as payload is not allowed.

In case of violations, the government can suspend/cancel the UIN/ UAOP in case of violation of regulatory provisions, take action as per “relevant sections of the Aircraft Act 1934, or Aircraft Rules, or any statutory provisions” and also impose “penalties as per applicable IPC sections (like 287, 336, 337, 338)”.


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