Civilian drones, despite ban, flying in India; time to relook 'blanket prohibition'

Despite a blanket ban on the use of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the country, civilian drones worth Rs 40 crore were bought by Indians in the last two years, reported Economictimes.com.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Although the rules prohibit the use of commercial drones, the daily reported that their sale is not banned per se.

Talking about the trend, Huzefa Tavawalla, who heads international commercial law practice at Nishith Desai Associates, says to Firstpost : “As per Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rules any civilian use of drones in India is illegal, but people still use them by taking permission from local authorities, which is also according to me not legally acceptable.”

According to Tavawalla, the blanket ban on the use of commercial drones is reactionary and lacks a long-term vision of incorporating drones in achieving goals of socio-economic development.

Apart from defence and reconnaissance, drones have several commercial use. They could be used for the quick delivery of donated organs, enhancing agricultural efficiency by identifying factors such as moisture content and nutrient soil availability. Remote sensing through drones can be of significant use in disaster-prone areas for pinpointing and fighting fires or detection of theft and pilferage of goods meant for public utilisation, or in detection of LPG gas leaks which can save several lives.

Presently, people mostly use drones for aerial photography in weddings and for hobby flying. Drones are also used to take aerial shots in movie and documentary making. These drones typically include toy drones which cost between Rs 2,000 and Rs 50,000.

Drones have been used in India for some time, however, their use caught public attention when a pizzeria in Mumbai delivered a pizza by a UAV to much fanfare in May, 2014. The police, realising that there were no regulations on drones, banned their use.

This was followed by the DGCA issuing a public notice on 7 October, 2014, imposing a blanket ban on the use of civil drones in the interest of national security.

While the ban has been imposed due to ‘national security’, the DGCA acknowledged that drones have potential for a large number of civil applications.

“It’s perfectly fine to regulate advance drones as these can be misused by unscrupulous elements…But a blanket ban is unfair. Drones have enormous commercial possibilities,” says Pritam Sahu of Edall Systems, a Bengaluru based drone maker, to Economictimes.

Talking to Firstpost, Sahu says that there should be a guideline from the government in terms of the use of drones for civilian purpose.

“Currently people are importing drones illegally from abroad and using them. What I think is the use of the UAVs can be regulated here,” Sahu says.

Drones are quickly becoming cost effective and more capable and have been widely adopted by the law enforcement agencies in India. Currently, India accounts for the highest percentage of the world’s UAV imports (for defence purposes) at 22.5 percent. The government of India has recently entered into an arrangement to purchase armed drones from Israel and the US.

“With India’s innovation flight taking off with the launch of key initiatives such ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’ and a strong focus on IT start-ups, the government must use this opportunity to make India the global manufacturing leader for drones,” Tavawalla said.


Published Date: Jul 06, 2017 05:02 pm | Updated Date: Jul 06, 2017 05:02 pm