Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), 2020

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

In the light of the fact that during the lockdown period, the use of drones has drastically increased for purposes like disinfection, surveillance and videography, the draft ‘Unmanned Aircraft System Rules’ 2020 have been notified by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The rules have come into existence on 2nd June for importing, owning and manufacturing drones and also for drone ports i.e. the airports for drones. As of now, feedbacks and comments have been invited from the various stakeholders within the period of 1 month and the rules will be finalised after that.

The government had earlier issued drone regulations 1.0 and the drone regulations 2.0. and also finalized National Counter Rogue Drone Guidelines for handling the threats from Unmanned Aircraft Systems. This can definitely be seen as another preventive step taken by the government regarding the COVID-19 outcomes, after the announcement of an online platform GARUD i.e. Government Authorisation for Relief Using Drones, earlier in May.

Salient Features

When it comes to approval, the draft rules make it mandatory for every authorised drone manufacturer and importer to sell UAS only to those entities and persons that have been approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).  The manufacturing and maintenance facility of an Unmanned Aircraft System will be inspected by the DGCA before granting approval under these rules notified. Unless the DGCA specifies it, dropping of articles and carriage of payload by any unmanned aircraft is prohibited as per rule number 36 and 38. Moreover, only the drones falling under the Nano class i.e. the ones less than or equal to 250 grams, will be allowed to operate in andin order to operate heavier drones, qualified remote pilot will be required necessarily.  The maximum speed for these unmanned aircrafts has been limited to 15 metres per second and the draft rules only permit the drones to fly at the height of 15 meters and that too within the range of 100 meters from the remote pilot.

Moving on to the third-party insurance, operating an unmanned aircraft in India has been ceased unless there is in existence avalid third-party insurance policy to cover the liability that may arise on account of a mishap involving such UAS. Lastly, coming to the ownership criteria laid down by the draft rules, one needs to be at least 18 years old for the same. Whereas in case of companies, it is requisite for their business to be mainly settled in India along with its office and at least two third of the company directors have to be Indian citizens along with the Chairman. Another important point is that the businesses that have the intention of operating drones need to be substantially owned and effectively controlled by Indian nationals.

Objectives and Purpose

Drones are essentially being used in industrial, defence, law and order, disaster management and surveillance operations, cutting the demand of manpower and also reducing the costs. In addition, the government is keen to promote domestic drone production. Besides, the rules come at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has underlined the role that technology can play in reducing human interface and costs. One of the viewpoints state that the main purpose behind these draft rules is to prevent fraudulent misuse of drones and the illegal manufacture by unregistered private companies and individuals as it would result in black marketing of unmanned aircrafts at a large scale.

Critical Analysis

While perusing the present need of the people globally, drones do provide low-cost, safe and fast aerial data collection surveys and are useful for industries such as power, mining, real estate, oil and gas exploration, railways, and highways. Not forgetting that they are also effective when it comes to relief and rescue work and policing. But it would also not be righteous to ignore the negative use of these unmanned aircrafts in the past, around the world. One very important example of that is the Saudi-Aramco Drone Attack can also be misused, and this makes the regulated use of unmanned aircrafts necessary and obligatory on people in today’s world.

Conclusion

Looking at the future prospects of the unmanned aircrafts, it is noteworthy that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has permitted various food start-ups like Zomato, to conduct the trials of unmanned aircrafts i.e. the drones for carriage of food orders Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). The key difference is that the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) flights operate within the pilot’s line of sights while when come to BVLOS flights, they can fly beyond the visual range of the remote pilot and are mainly performed for monitoring large areas. This further enables all the service providers to conduct the complex drone operations and furthermore facilitate the unmanned aircrafts to fly without any human interference. And in the near future, it is expected that more such rules will come into existence that will enable the use of unmanned aircrafts for e-commerce or delivering medical supplies.

Author: Vaibhav Singh from Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India

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