Here’s What Drone Flyers Have to Say About the New Regulations
Drone regulations have been drafted for India but what do they say? 
Drone regulations have been drafted for India but what do they say? (Photo: iStock)

Here’s What Drone Flyers Have to Say About the New Regulations

The Indian drone fraternity is pleased that finally they can operate within a government approved ecosystem. Having said that, companies are wary that the regulations don’t make it easy for people to indulge in leisurely or recreational drone flying.

The Quint spoke to drone-operating companies on the subject and broadly this is what they had to say. According to global market intelligence and advisory firm BIS Research, by 2021, the Indian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market will reach $885.7 million (Rs 62.4 billion), while the global market size will touch $21.47 billion (Rs 1.5 trillion).

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It’s clear that the Ministry of Aviation (MoA) along with the DGCA wants to milk this opportunity in the coming years.

Sources from the drone ecosystem suggested to us that in India alone, over 40,000 drones have already been operating, across different spectra of usage.

The demand for drones in India will come for surveillance, civil and commercial application use cases.

Keeping the stats aside, it is interesting to see companies such as Quidich, a Mumbai-based operator with commercial drones, breathing a sigh of relief with the first-ever drone regulations.

India has been late with its drone regulations but it’s a start nevertheless. We’re in a similar situation as to when cars would have been invented, and people would have started planning on making roads and rules for driving.
Rahat Kulshreshtha, CEO, Quidich 

Kulshreshtha does make it sound dramatic, but his point is easy to interpret, especially since he is someone who works on projects with big multinationals and hears their apprehensions about the drone business. Thankfully, that will soon be passe.

Now, we can negotiate legal terms for large-scale projects, and companies can feel confident about getting involved with businesses like ours.
Rahat Kulshreshtha, CEO, Quidich 

The draft regulations are clear about its agenda, which primarily looks at the security aspects. Granted, it doesn’t encourage drone flying as a hobby, but there’s no restriction either.

In the US, drone flying for leisure purposes is permissible up to 400 feet and with drones weighing under 2kg. Kulshreshtha thinks that the space is likely to explode from here on, and hopefully others will be part of the scheme of things very soon.

European drone flying standards are set at 400 feet, while fliers in India were limited to flying drones up to 200 feet till now.

Drones are (unmanned) devices that can cater to rescue needs in places where disasters like floods or earthquakes strike. It can also be used for analysing the agricultural scope of a particular field, and help in monitoring and controlling road traffic as well. Most of this will be taken care of by government-supported organisations and commercial brands and that’s a change in the right direction.

Not Everyone is Pleased

The scope for drones is huge and the regulations are right to keep that in check, getting the due diligence done. This can be quite taxing, but a much warranted exercise.

While those in the drone business have mixed reactions to the regulations in place, small-scale drone brands will feel discouraged by what’s on paper. For instance, a renowned wedding photographer feels that use of drones for aerial photography has been around for a while and these rules will make things difficult for that lucrative industry.

In addition to this, anybody wanting to shoot videos via a drone in scenic places like Ladakh or even remote parts of Himachal Pradesh will need to take permissions from local police authorities, 24 hours prior to their planned flying schedule, which could be difficult.

This is where recreational drone flying will have to take a backseat. Jaspreet Makkar, founder of We Do Sky believes it is unfair on the regular user. His Delhi-based company has been actively involved with location mapping projects via drones in the country.

The government is being conservative and drafted the rules with a safety-first approach. These are not the most favourable laws for drone flying, but hopefully we’ll see a change in the near future.
Jaspreet Makkar, Founder, We Do Sky

He also thinks that retrofitting the drones with equipment like fire-proof number plate, GPS tracking device and data logging module could have been lobbied by the Indian drone manufacturers.

So, will global brands like DJI, Parrot and Yuneec adhere to these mandated changes to their products or decide against venturing into the commercial drone segment in India? Makkar hopes sense will prevail and some exceptions will be made. Otherwise, most of the drones, at least for now, are striking out as an airborne tracking mechanism for the government.

Buying and Importing Drones - It’s Not Easy

Buying drones and fitting them with cameras or even possibly weapons has been easy till now, but flying them is not. Thankfully this has ensured we don’t get to hear of “shot by drone” incidents in the country.

The new rules ensure that anybody looking to buy or import drones need to register the device with details like brand, device number and mentioning the seller among others.

Buying drones in India via eBay, Amazon was very easy and anybody could get them. But with the regulations in place, everyone will have to register them to a database, which can be tracked whenever needed. 
Jaspreet Makkar, Founder, We Do Sky

In general, it does limit the number of persons able to own and fly a drone (that is if they get proper training license and permits) and somehow that seems to be the main agenda behind opening the gates to drones.

Buying drones online in India is pretty easy, but very expensive. 
Buying drones online in India is pretty easy, but very expensive. 
(Photo: Online screen grab)

Companies can still not use drones for deliveries. That’s something that Amazon has been advocating for sometime, but the company refused to comment on the subject with respect to the Indian market for now.

It is still early days and just the first draft, so Kulshreshtha and Makkar in unison believe there’s more to come for everyone, and hopefully the ministry will cater to the basic hobbyists needs sometime soon.

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