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The Lowdown: DGCA’s operational requirements for drones, application process, safety & more


The Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has released the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for operation of civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), or as it is commonly known as, drones. As per the CAR, in order to operate a drone one will have to obtain an Unique Identification Number (UIN), an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) and comply with certain other operational requirements. Note that this CAR is specifically for RPAS, and the operation of autonomous aircraft are strictly prohibited.

One can send their comments regarding this to the DGCA within December 1, 2017. Write to: hbiswas[dot]dgca[at]nic[dot]in

In April last year, DGCA had released a draft policy with guidelines for obtaining a Unique Identification Number (UIN) and permission to fly a civil unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The current Civil Aviation Requirements for operating a drone has been built on top of this draft policy. DGCA had begun the process of framing guidelines for the operation of drones in the country, back in April 2015, post which drones were expected to be legalized.

Note that in March 2016, the government of India had amended the Customs Baggage Declaration regulations to make it mandatory (pdf) to declare drones in customs forms, for people coming to India. On declaration, users had to report to the customs officer at the Red Channel counter and were liable to pay duty on the item. The regulation came into force on April 1, 2016.

Lowdown on DGCA’s operational requirements for remotely piloted drones

To begin with, DGCA has divided drones into five categories based on Maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW):

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  1. Nano: Less than or equal to 250 grams.
  2. Micro: Greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg.
  3. Mini: Greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg.
  4. Small: Greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg.
  5. Large: Greater than 150 kg.

It’s worth noting that the DGCA will allow model aircrafts, with MTOW of up to 2kg and without any payload, to operate without UNIN and/or UAOP, provided that they’re flown below 200 ft and only inside the premises of an educational institution. However, such recreational flyers will have to “inform the local police authorities before undertaking such activities even for indoor operation.”

Application Process

1. Unique Identification Number (UIN)

Who can apply for an UIN?

  • A citizen of India
  • The central government or any state government or any company or corporation owned or controlled by either of the said governments
  • A company or corporate body, provided either it is registered and has its principal place of business within India, or its chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors are citizens of India, or its substantial ownership and effective control is vested in Indian nationals
  • A company or corporation registered outside India, provided that it has leased the RPAS to any organization mentioned in points 2 & 3 above.

What documents need to be submitted?

  • Contact details of the operator with valid identity and address proof
  • Details of purpose and area of operation
  • Specification of the drone, including manufacturer name, type, model number, year of manufacture, weight & size, type of propulsion system, flying capabilities in terms of maximum endurance, and range & height among others
  • Details of compatible payload along with its weight and maximum weight carrying capacity of the drone
  • Copy of the drone’s flight manual or manufacturer’s operating manual
  • Copy of the drone’s manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines
  • Explicit permission for all frequencies the drone will be using during operations from the Department of Telecommunication (Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing)
  • Security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in case the applicant is either an individual or a company that isn’t owned or controlled by a government body
  • Verification of character and antecedents of the remote pilot(s) from the local sub-divisional police office

Note that the drone will need to have an identification plate (similar to the number plate of a car), on which the UIN, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag and SIM will be affixed. This identification plate will have to be made of fireproof material.

DGCA will issue the UIN within two days if the documents submitted are complete.

Also, note that drones in the Nano category that do not intend to fly more than 50 feet above ground level, and those that are owned by government security agencies do not require a UIN.

2. Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP)

All drone operations except the following require a UAOP:

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  • Drones in the Nano category operating below 50 feet in uncontrolled airspace & indoor operations.
  • Drones in the Micro category operating below 200 feet in uncontrolled airspace, and clear of prohibited, restricted and dangerous areas. However, the local police authorities need to be informed before actual operations.
  • Drones owned and operated by government security agencies.

What documents need to submitted to obtain a UAOP?

  • Permission from Air Traffic Services provider (civil/defense)
  • Permission of the land or property owner (i.e., the area from where the drone will take-off and land
  • Details of the remote pilot(s) and her/his training records
  • Insurance details of the drone
  • Security programme as approved by Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS)

Note that the application for the UAOP needs to be submitted with the DGCA at least 7 days before actual operations.

Note that the Permit will be valid for a period of 5 years, following which it needs to be renewed.

Security & Safety

  • In case the drone is lost, the operator will have to report it to the local police, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, and DGCA.
  • The security measures outlined in the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security’s security programme needs to be followed before every flight.
  • The ground control station, from where the drone is remotely operated, must have security measures in place to ensure that it is not sabotaged or unlawfully interfered with at any time.
  • Any incident involving the drone (except in case of drones in the Nano category) needs to be notified to the Director of Air Safety, DGCA.
  • Drones that have been issued a UIN cannot be sold or disposed of without the permission of the DGCA. Also, the DGCA must be informed in case the drone is damaged and is no longer operational so that the UIN associated with it can be canceled.

Training for Remote Pilots

  • Remote pilots must be 18 years old or above, with training that is equivalent to that undertaken by aircrew that is part of a manned aircraft, or a private pilot license (PPL) holder with Flight Radio Telephone Operator’s Licence.
  • Remote pilots must undergo training regarding handling of a drone, both practical and simulated flight training.
  • As part of the training, they must acquaint themselves with basic Radio Telephony (RT) techniques, including knowledge of radio frequencies, flight planning and Air Traffic Control procedures, regulations specific to area of operations, basic knowledge of multi-rotors and fixed-wing (different types of drones) operations, and no-fly zone awareness.
  • Remote pilots must be able to demonstrate that they can control the drone during the entire duration of operation, including safe recovery of the drove in case of emergency or when there is a system failure.

Note that these training requirements do not apply to remote pilots operating drones in Nano and Micro categories.

Drone maintenance

The drone needs to be maintained and repaired according to procedures approved by the manufacturer, and similarly in case of ground control equipment. The remote pilot will have to check that all control systems of the drone, including radio link, is functioning properly (to a reasonable degree because the remote pilot isn’t a specialist in this regard), before each flight. Also, records for each drone flight must be maintained and made available to the DGCA on demand.

Drone equipment requirements

All drones, except those in the Nano category, need to be equipped with:

  • Identification plate (as mentioned earlier)
  • GPS for horizontal and vertical position fixing
  • Autonomous Flight Termination System or return-to-home option
  • Flashing anti-collision strobe lights
  • Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and GSM SIM card slot to enable app-based tracking of the drone

Drones that intend to operate at or above 200 feet will also need to have the following equipment on board:

  • Secondary surveillance radar (SSR) transponder or Automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS–B) transponder: These essentially helps the Air Traffic Control’s radar system to detect and measure the position of the aircraft (in this case drone).
  • Barometric equipment with capability for remote sub-scale setting: to measure atmospheric pressure.
  • Geo-fencing capability: this uses GPS and/or RFID to create a virtual geographic boundary, so when a mobile device enter that area it triggers a response.
  • Detect and avoid capability.

Note that both the Airports Authority of India and the Indian Air Force will monitor drone movement within the country.

Areas identified for testing and/or demonstration of drones

Download: Draft Policy

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