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Drones: Can’t Ignore Privacy Concerns, Lawmakers Should Intervene 

Separate set of laws are needed to address privacy concerns related to drones in India.

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Separate set of laws are needed to address privacy concerns related to drones in India.
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Unmanned Aircraft System or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), popularly known as ‘drones’, has an immense potential for a country like India. The domestic industry for the RPAS will touch approximately $421 million by 2021. Even the government’s ‘Make in India’ project is focussing on indigenous drones in future.

Law will have to match pace with technology. Keeping this need in mind, the Ministry of Civil Aviation released a draft amendment to the Aircraft Rules, 1937 on 11 September 2017. The draft rules specifically refer to the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) or ‘drones’.

Proposed Regulation for Drones

The draft rules propose that:

1) No remotely piloted aircraft with all-up-weight (aircraft gross weight) more than 250 grams shall be flown unless such aircraft has been allotted a Unique Identification Number by the Director-General.

2) A remotely piloted aircraft with all-up-weight, exceeding a limit as specified by the Director General, shall not be flown by the operator, save, as per the conditions of the permit issued by the Director-General. Such permit shall be granted by the Director-General on being satisfied that the applicant meets the requirements as specified by the Director-General.

3) The permit granted under sub-rule (2) shall, unless suspended or cancelled, remain valid for a period not exceeding five years, and may be renewed for a period not exceeding five years at a time.

4) In case of non-compliance with the conditions of the permit or for any other violation of the provisions of these rules, the Director-General may suspend or cancel the permit after giving a show cause notice to the holder.

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Concerns Over Privacy

Drones will have privacy-related implications and infringe upong the Right to Privacy which has been recently considered as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in Justice Puttaswamy vs Union of India.

With the advent of drones, aerial surveillance will increase because it is economically viable. Earlier aerial surveillance was conducted with the help of helicopters which is expensive.

It is indeed alarming that drones can be used to collect personal data and monitor an individual’s movement in public space. It is important to note the words of Justice Kaul in Justice Puttaswamy vs Union of India that “lawful interception of data (while referring to the Blackberry case) may be desirable and permissible but it cannot be unregulated”.

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Legislature Needs to Intervene

Due to its distinct design, a regulatory framework would be needed for follow-up procedure in case of an accident.

We need to understand that drones belong to a distinct category of aircraft and cannot be governed by rules meant for manned aircraft.

Thus, the legislature needs to formulate policies for a ‘technology’ that is in public interest.

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(The writer is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law at Jamia Millia Islamia. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. )

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