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 Originally made for military purposes, for missions which were considered to be dangerous, impossible, and cause mass casualties to life.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). 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.
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)
● 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). 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; 
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; 
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.”
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
Aviation (DGCA). No foreigners have the authority to fly an unregistered drone or a
registered drone in India. To do so they will need to lease the registered drone to an Indian entity who will gain the authority to pilot the drone for commercial purposes.
Section 7 of Drone laws, 2018, describes the requirements for issuing of an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP). It describes a necessary guideline for all drone operators to have a permit which is more like a license to fly a drone. Similar to driving license, acquiring a permit also needs to fulfill a certain criterion like,
1. Nano RPA should be operated below 50 feet of the airspace.
2. Micro RPA should be operated below 200 feet of the airspace
3. When an RPA is owned and operated by an agency (as indicated in Section 6), one needs to intimate the local police office and concerned ATS units before conducting an actual operation.
4. Permission of land and property of the owner has to be taken in prior (only for the area used for the take-off and landing of RPA)
5. Details of the remote pilot along with security clearance from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) or self-attested copies of at least 2 out of 3 valid identity proofs should be provided;
6. Security programs and insurance should be approved by the Board of Civil Aviation.
7. The UAOP should be renewed every 5 years and is nontransferable;
8. The operator must be above 18 years of age.
These guidelines work like guidelines that one needs to fulfill and be aware of. It works similar to a driving license application but this time, it’s for flying drones.
Section 9 describes the remote pilot training requirements. Under this the various requirements that the operator needs to have to fulfill their training under CAR are detailed. The training is given by the CAR authorities. There are also private training institutes like a driving school where one can enroll before getting their UAOP.
Required features for drones
With growing technology, people have grown to experiment with it based on their needs, likes, and demands. Many drone enthusiasts happen to create drones at home. To keep control and check of such the CAR has made it compulsory for all drones to have particular features that need it to be cleared by the DGCA. Without any of these features, the drone will be rejected for UIN and the pilot will be prohibited from flying it. Let’s look at some of the key necessary features of drones: -
1. Section 8 Security and Safety Requirements: These are the requirements for the means of security and safety of the drone and the public.
A drone needs to have these features so that it doesn’t become a casualty or risk to itself or anyone else. They are:
● In case the RPA is damaged and can't be restored to its original condition, the same has to be notified to the DGCA by the owner/operator for the cancellation of the UIN. This is to ensure that the UIN number is not misused by any other operator or an unregistered RPA.
● The RPA will not be sold out disposed of in any way to any person or firm without the permission from the DGCA.
● Any contact details to be changed in UIN shall be immediately notified to DGCA and all other concerned agencies.
2. Section11 Equipment Requirements: This section states that all RPA except, the Nano category drones should be equipped with the following described machinery equipment(s):
● GNSS for horizontal and vertical positioning of the drone and visual for the operator at all times, in all directions.
● Automatic Flight Termination/STOP System or Return Home (RH) option to ensure safe retrieval of the drone to its owner/ operator.
● Flashing strong and bright anti-collision strobe lights.
● Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Grafton sim card/ No- Permission, No-Takeoff compliant for App-Based Real-Time Tracking.
● A fire and weather resistant identification plate, inscribed with Unique Identification Number (UIN) on the drone.
● Flight controlling along with flight data logging capability to ensure better operator control over the drone.
● SSR transport or ADS-B OUT equipment to be capable of transporting lightweight and minimally sized objects.
The following requirements are specific for medium to large-sized drone with special abilities and purpose and so need special clearance from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA):
● Barometer equipment, it's the capability for remote subscale setting;
● Geo- sensing capabilities;
● To detect and avoid barriers capability;
● Remote pilots/operators shall be equipped with a communication system facility to establish two-way communication with the concerned ATS unit at the time of in-action flight;
● The trading system of the Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA) should be self-powered and tamper-proof to ensure data relay even in the event of an accident; and
● Indian air force shall monitor the drones' movement in the country in coordination with the Airport Authority of India.
3. Section 12 Operating Requirements: The RPA operator needs to prepare themselves and the drone according to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which are:
● Take off/landing procedure;
● Avoiding collision procedure;
● Noise abatement method(s);
● Flight plan piling procedure;
● Local airspace restriction protocols;
● Right-of-way or direction navigation method(s);
● Maintaining communication with the CAR as well as the drone, simultaneously;
● Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) emergency protocols, (including loss of C2 link);
● Safe recovery of drones through controlled and monitored airspaces in case of system failure;
● Precluding the ability to remain outside controlled and monitored airspaces;
● All drone operations shall be restricted today only, within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS);
● The meteorological condition also needs to be monitored as based on the following: -
i. During daylight;
ii. In Visual Meteorological Condition (VMC);
iii. With minimum ground visibility of 5 Kilometers and Cloud ceiling shouldn’t be less than 1500 feet;
iv. Surface wind of not more than 10 knots or as specified by the manufacturer;
v. No perception of thunderstorm activities or exceeding those specified by the manufacturer.
4. Section 14 General Requirements: The RPA needs to have certain features beyond the conditions described in Section 12, which are:
● To ensure new technology, Indian organizations and institutions involved in R&D related activities of RPAS shall use the test sites for testing and demonstrating purposes.
● The organization can also utilize unused airstrips or Government educational institutional campuses, provided they follow adequate safety precautions.
● The operators in R&D institutions are responsible that no manned or unmanned aircraft is flying during such operations in the intended test areas.
All these features and requirements ensure the safety of drones, the pilot, and the public at all times. It helps the government to be aware of all the tasks being done with the help of drones and keep track of all illegal activities too.
No Permission, No Take-off Policy
India has its uniquely added xv'No permission No take-off' (NPNT) clause added to its CAR policy this means that the drone needs to be configured with special software and hardware in such a manner that unless and until the regulatory permission is approved through the Digital Sky Platform, the drone can't fly.
According to this, the No-Permission, No-Takeoff (NPNT) policy has added an implemented advantage to the law because by this no drive manufacturer can sell drones in India without the permission of the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation. Wine both the online and offline markets are flooded with Drones, where NPNT policy is not even heard of. Yet, all kinds of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) need a UIN to fly in India.
Hence, they've to go for the NPNT protocols. The Digital Sky Platform had divided the air space of India into three categories
1. Red- no-fly zone.
This includes airspace near international borders, near airports and other strategic locations like the government and judiciary building.
2. The yellow- restricted zone
It includes air spaces that require an Air Defense Clearance/ Flight Information Center (FIC) number from Air Traffic Control.
3. Green- unrestricted zone
Even though it is an unrestricted zone, one still needs to obtain permission from the Digital Sky Platform to fly in the zone.
The massive framework of the Digital Sky Platform is one of the most comprehensive and complex in the world. Unfortunately, it is a general absence of awareness about the Digital Sky Platform amongst the drone users and manufacturers that are burdening the CAR and Aviation Authority of India.
Though enforcing NPNT protocols at the manufacturer's end seems to be the plausible way ahead, the regulators are themselves struggling to maintain a proper system of administration over the hardware and software capabilities of drones as there are no specific and equipped labs to ascertain their standards and capabilities.
According to a recent estimate, there are more than 40,000 drones in India as of now. This number is only expected to increase over a Million in the coming years. Almost none of these drones happen to be are No-Permission, No-Takeoff policy compatible, and therefore, remains to be seen what the regulators will do with these existing drones and their second-hand sales that are vulnerable to unscrupulous elements.
Section 18 describes the various enforcement actions that explain the various possible criminal charges and appropriate punishment, in case there is a violation in any of the provisions of CAR. Some of them are as follows:
● In case of violating any provision of Civil Aviation Regulation laws (CAR,2018), the Unique Identification Number (UIN), and the Unmanned Aerial Operator Permit (UAOP) issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), shall be suspended or canceled.
● Section 17 describes all civil RPA operators shall have insurance with the liability that they might incur for any damage to the third party resulting from an accident or incident.
● Breach of compliance to any of the requirements and falsification of records and documents shall attract penal actions including the imposition of penalties as per applicable under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections. (Such as IPC section 287, IPC section 336, IPC section 337, IPC section 338 of any relevant section of IPC).
● All required actions shall be taken under relevant sections of the Aircraft Act 1934 and The Aircraft Rule 1937 or any other statutory provisions. or any other statutory provisions.
There are many criminal aspects to using a drone. If we go exploring all the ways a simple top drone can be manipulated to be used as a weapon, we will end up having a debate or a long conversation. The government and the Ministry of Aviation were well versed in this idea. Now the question that arises with the judiciary is that if it needs to amend its IPC and Criminal Procedure Code(Cr.P.C.) to add specified criminal charges and punishment against offense including drones and other technologies. Is it important? Maybe not today. But in the future, it may come in handy to have pre-advised law crimes involving modern technologies.
During my research, I talked to people in the field of law and technology sectors regarding drone laws. To my surprise, only a few were aware of its existence! There are not many online sources available either. Fortunately, the government site has all the necessary details and guidelines available. It’s a new law and we as Indians should be proud of it as it is the first of its kind.
This is a stepping stone into our future. When we talk about our lives being dependent on robots and technology in the future, we forget about the legal aspects of it. We forget about the criminal aspects of it. We need to understand these laws and propagate them. The more we talk about it, the more aware we become. This is a stepping stone for technology laws, a giant leap into our futures.
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10.Supra note 8