Drone Laws in India

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

By: Simrann Vashist


Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drone, is an unmanned aircraft that is either operated manually from the ground or autonomously thought onboard computer system or an onboard robot pilot. UAV itself is a component of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), along with a ground-based operator and a mode of communication between the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and the operator. Originally made for military purposes, for missions which were considered to be dangerous, impossible, and cause mass casualties to life.

Rapid development in the technology sector has made the public more curious about the application and usage of drones. Today drones are used for a variety of civil and commercial purposes like agriculture, policing, tourism, pickup and delivery, aerial photography and videography, and even for safety and helping during natural calamities. Unfortunately, it is also being used for illegal and criminal purposes like, smuggling, unauthorized surveillance, stocking, illegal drug transportation, theft and robbery, terrorism, and trading national secrets. Hence, to keep track of the civilian usage of drones in India, drone laws were introduced by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, India.

Drones in India

Flying drones in India was legalized in the year 2018 by the Ministry of Civil Aviation when the Directorate General of Civil Aviation announced India’s first Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR)[1]. Under this, one can't simply buy a drone and pilot it into the air space without any compliances. The government has included a first of its kind, national Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) which is known as the “Digital Sky Platform”.

Without clearance from Digital Sky Platform, drones can't fly into the air space or unauthorized territories. The Digital Sky Platform had divided the air space is India into three categories: Red, Yellow, and Green.

Drone categories:

Drones today are being used as toys. But one cannot forget about the possibilities of it being used for commercial, military, and illegal purposes. Hence, different kinds of drones are made for various purposes and that acts as a basis for their categorization. The Nano category drone doesn’t need to be registered as it’s the common toy drone. It’s weight and airspace distance are limited to pilot sight with a flight distance of 50m.

There is also a bigger and heavier drone that happens to have to capability to pick up a human. The drone of a medium and large category is to be used for a special purpose and so need special clearance from the DGCA. The primary three categories of drone and civil and commercial purposes and do not need special clearance.

Section 3 describes the categories of the RPA used for civil purposes in accordance with maximum all-up-weight is indicated.

● Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams (.55 pounds)

● Micro: From 250 grams (.55 pounds) to 2kg (4.4 pounds)

● Small: From 2kg (4.4 pounds) to 25kg (55 pounds)[2]

● Medium: From 25kg (55 pounds) to 150kg (330 pounds)

● Large: Greater than 150kg (33 pounds)

Drone Registration Protocols

Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft, and Model Aircraft are various subsets of a UAV. A Remotely Piloted Aircraft, it's associated remote pilot station, command and control links and any other components form the ixRemotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)[3]. The CAR was issued under the provision of Rule 15A and Rule 133A of the Aircraft Rues,1937. According to this, drones in India are of two basic types - Made in India, Imported. Both the kids need to be registered under Section 6 of Drone Law, with its application procedure explained in Section 5. Through this, the public can have easy access to both the imported and locally purchased drones and get it registered with ease.

“Section 6 Civil RPA (except those indicated in Section 6.4 and 6.5) of CAR, shall require Unique Identification Number (UIN) from DGCA. UIN will be granted where the RPAS is wholly owned either:

A. By an Indian citizen; [4]

B. By the Central Government or any State Government or any Corporate company owned or controlled by either of the said governments;

C. By a corporate company body provided that:

I. It's registered and has its principal business location within India;

II. It's chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors are citizens of India;

III. It's substantial ownership and effective control is vested in the hands of an Indian citizen; [5]

D. By a Corporate company registered elsewhere than India, provided that such company or Corporation had leased the RPAS to any organization mentioned in Section 6.1B or C.”[6]

The basic understanding of this section is that every drone except the Nano category drone needs to be registered under the provisions of CAR and have its Unique Identification Number and Unmanned Aerial Operator Permit (UAOP) from the Directorate General of Civil