Laws regulating drones in India

Aditi Kumari, Galgotias University

The on-air topic which is undoubtedly "drone" is here being discussed with its legal concept and rules and regulations related to the same.

Drones and related laws in India- As per the new rules of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, it is legal to fly a drone. But there are some rules and regulations that must be kept in mind.

What are Drones? Drones are unmanned aircraft or flying vehicles which do not need a pilot but are made with its self-piloting characters. They are self-functioning robotic machines which are controllable on a remote system. If a person calls these unpiloted aircraft "unmanned aerial vehicles" he would not be wrong I guess. Oftenly short-termed as "UAV". The world has now this much-improved technology. These technologies can be applied for not only certain purposes but more than that. Most of the functions are being possible on this technical basis. The foundation of drones are also very useful and have multiple applications. Such as it can be used as a defence by the military forces, it can be used as spacecraft, satellites etc. Drones do have some of their features which are fundamentally needed such as GPS access, return to home feature, GSM sim, flight controller along with data logging, anti-collision light, No Permission No Takeoff (NPNT) complaint based app drones, biometric equipment, ID plates etc. There are various types of drones. Some of them are-

  • Nano drone- weighs less than or equal to 250 grams (0.55 pounds)

  • Micro drone- weighing from 250 grams (0.55 pounds) to 2kg (4.4 pounds)

  • Small drone- weights from 2kg (4.4 pounds) to 25kg (55 pounds)

  • Medium drone- weight ranges from 25kg (55 pounds) to 150kg (330 pounds)

  • Large drone- weigh more than 150kg (33 pounds)

Laws set by the government of India regarding drones- In India the government has legalised the use of unnamed aerial vehicles as after taking into consideration the rapid growth and dependency of mankind on technological factors. For the same, the government of India introduced the civil aviation regulations. The regulation allows for the better use of drones but a series of guidelines are given to the same which the user must follow. A person to acquire a drone has to issue a license by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and security clearance by the Home Minister at the same time. Followed by this the candidate has to get the Equipment Type Approval (ETA) by the Ministry of Telecommunication and its wireless wings as well. The use of drones needs complete registration before it's first flight. The drone importing authorities have to take all of these steps before actually serving it to the user. In a survey, it was admitted that most drones are being imported in India from China which somehow lacks even it's basic features. But the thing to keep in mind is the above-said rules are set out by the government for the importers of drones. No not a hard and fast rule for the importer but mostly they are the importers who introduce drones in India or say the manufacturer of drones. As a buyer, the person who purchases the drone has to get it's drone registered and also has to get permission to fly the drone with the Digital Sky Platform of India. For the same, a person can see the details on the official website of the Digital Sky Platform. Registration of drones is a must except for the Nano drones. All the drones after it's registration are issued a Unique Identification Number (UIN). A mobile app is there to regulate the flight of the drones. Before every single flight, the owner has to take permission to fly his drone. After that only the app is functional for the drone. The permission is a must too. Without prior permission, the person would simply not be able to fly it or operate the app. The drones used for commercial purposes also needed permissions. The Nano one which plans a flight up to or below fifty feet and those micro-drones which fly for not more than a height of two hundred feet are not necessarily registered. And this is an exceptional one. The rule made by the government which the user must keep in mind is the drone should never cross the height of four thousand feet (vertically). Some specified regions are strictly banned for any drone flight practices. Such as airports or nearby areas, international borders, Vijay Chowk in Delhi (on Rajpath- from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate), State Secretariat Complex in state capitals, strategic areas, and military installations. Flying drones in controlled airspace need the permission of the unique Air Defense Clearance (ADC)/Flight Information Center (FIC) number. The government also needs to get satisfied with the good use of drones and not attempting to infringe any kind of right to privacy whether to a person or to an association or any authoritative area having government offices or secret agencies. There is a strict " no" of the government to permit a person to fly a drone over or nearby government houses such as the President's residence, Parliament, House of Ministry of Finance etc. This could lead to various uncalled, unpredictable dangers such as aiding in any terrorist attacks.

Judicial approaches on a drone- The introduction of the drone in the global lifestyle is not too old but is a trending topic to discuss and apply in day-to-day practices as well. The courts though give their opinions and statements on using a drone.

  • John Taylor v. FAA I – The lawsuit is adjudicated by the USA based Judicial office. Taylor beat the Federal Aviation Administration. D.C. Circuit held that the drone registration rules were illegally created. Further, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 overruled this case.

  • Academy of Model Aeronautics v. FAA – This case has been in abeyance since 2014. The plaintiffs did challenge the FAA’s 2014 model aircraft interpretation as violating Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

  • The United States v. Eric Lee Brown- The person was being prosecuted for a drone drug drop and also charged with an offence for failing to register the drone. There was a plea agreement.

  • Singer v. The city of Newton – The local drone law was struck down as illegal. The Federal District Court of Massachusetts stated the local drone ordinance as being unconstitutional and denied its validity. It was appealed by the City to the appeals court but the City asked for the case to be dismissed. The court further dismissed the case.

  • Boggs v. Meredith- A case filed in the federal Western District Court of Kentucky. Boggs’ (petitioner) drone was shot down by Meredith (defendant). Boggs filed suit against Meredith in federal court claiming the drone was in navigable airspace (which means he was not trespassing in Meredith’s airspace for sure) and was entitled to compensation. The court dismissed the case as the court did not have the subject matter jurisdiction to decide the case. The jurisdiction to decide the case was in Kentucky state court.


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