Drones are legal in India from December 2018 – Drone Regulation 1.0

A very big news is coming from the Office of Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which should mark as a historic day in India’s Drone Industry. The Drone Regulation 1.0 has finally been released which would be effective from 1st December 2018. We had earlier updated the current situations earlier and the Drone Regulation 1.0 is a welcoming step in the right direction to all the stakeholders in Drone Industry

DGCA had put a blanket ban on any kind of Drone Operations by private players by a Public Notice back in October 2014 which had limited the growth of Drone Industry in India. The hope for the removal of ban came with First DGCA Drone Regulation Draft in April 2016 and then after a lot of wait again with Second DGCA Drone Regulation Draft in November 2017. What was interesting to note was the growth of Drone Industry was still going happening with several government agencies taking interests in using Drones and Drone Technology for Surveying, Mapping, Inspections, 3D City Modelling and Agriculture. Many companies were formed during this times coming up with Innovative use cases for solving several issues using Drone Technologies. Indrones was also actively involved with several private and government organisations for POCs and large scale projects. All this efforts has now been given a boost with the new Drone Regulation by DGCA and we shall see a lot of uses of Drones and Drone Technology in the coming time.

 

Following are some of the highlights we feel are worth noting:

  1.  Clear distingush between the categories of Unmanned Aircrafts: i. Remotely Piloted Aircraft ii. Autonomous Aircraft iii. Model Aircraft. From this distinguish it is clear that the hobbyist, aeromodellers and students involved in research and development will be treated differently.
  2. Only 24 hours for Flight Plans Approvals after filing and only 7 days for getting a new UAOP
  3. All the approvals and flight request will be carried out by DCGA’s own version of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) tool called ‘Digital Sky’. The complete operation will be digital and manual for using the same shall be released on 1st December 2018
  4. The cost of new UIN – Rs. 1,000, new UAOP – Rs. 25,000 and renewal of UAOP – Rs. 10,000/- (Page 22)
  5. Maximum operations of Drones (except Nano and Micro) increased to 400 feet, which is also an international standard which was kept to 200 feet earlier. (Page 9)
  6. Clear syllabus for a comprehensive drone training program. Standard training of 5 days. (Page 28)
  7. Comprehensive list of Drone Testing Centres across the country (Page 35)

Apart a lot of known questions have been answered in the list of FAQs by DGCA here: http://dgca.nic.in/cars/RPS-FAQs.pdf

Going forward DGCA will issue the Drone Regulation 2.0 which would include certification of Drone Hardware and Software, Automated Airspace Management, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Operations, India’s contribution to global standards and any amendments need to existing CAR.

Scenario of Drone Industry in India – A brief background

A low cost commercial drone being used for a survey project

When we hear, word ‘drone’ the first things come in our mind is about the Indian blockbuster movie “3 idiots” from the year 2009. Besides being the trending words by UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles), Drones are the new buzz word. Thanks to the advancements in sensors, manufacturing, chips and actuators, they are getting more accessible for use cases apart from Defense Sectors. Companies like DJI, Yuneec, 3DR, etc., and open source hardware and software platforms like Ardupilot, Pixhawk, Mission Planner, etc. have shown the world how affordable can this piece of technology be made. Apart from the fun purpose drones became very useful for education, scientific research, professional and commercial industry use building up India’s Drone Industry.

Defense Drone Industry:

Speaking of the Drone Industry as a whole in India the majority usage can still be given to the defense sectors and security agencies, mainly because of the utility and their spending power which have been looking upto this technology to give them an ‘eye in the sky’. In this effort one of the major Defense Laboratory in India, DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) has invested heavily in the Research and Development of Drones with particular focus to the needs of Indian Defense scenarios. Some of the projects/drones from DRDO Labs are DRDO Lakshya , DRDO Netra , DRDO Nishant , DRDO Rustom and  DRDO Rustom II which are the frontiers in the aviation and surveillance technologies for defense.

Commercial Drone Industry:

There are wide variety of use cases for drones by civilians and commercial organizations These include, but are not limited to:

  1. assisting aid agencies during humanitarian crises and disaster management,
  2. helping farmers with their fields with simple bird eye view of their field,
  3. providing a new perspective to journalists,
  4. letting conservationists rapidly monitoring wildlife activity, animal tagging and conduct anti-poaching patrols,
  5. as recreational activity, flying a drone can be a lot of fun and learning as a hobby. Infact a lot of people getting into Drone Industry in India have had backgrounds in Aeromodelling.

Currently there is a huge spike in using drones Indian agriculture tier system for mapping the health of crops. This high resolution and accurate information using high end computation and deep learning technologies a set of time series. Financial Institutions and Insurance companies can now use this data to develop better Crop Insurance products.

Besides drones are finding its way into sectors like:

  1. GIS Mapping,
  2. Topographical Surveys,
  3. Industrial Inspections,
  4. Continuous Monitoring and Reporting use cases,
  5. Oil and Gas Companies,
  6. Pipeline Inspections,
  7. Powerline Inspections,
  8. Railway Lines Inspections,
  9. Solar Power Panel Inspections,
  10. Communications and Utility Tower Inspections,
  11. Critical Infrastructure and Historic Monument Inspections

Multispectral Imagery for Precision Agriculture using Drones in India

Our team was recently involved in doing a pilot project for using Drone Technology for Precision Agriculture and assessment of Plant Health and productivity estimation. The project was done in partnership with Sensehawk Technologies for one of the largest tobacco companies in India.

Indrones was successful in using the latest Multispectral Sensor – Parrot Sequoia and being one of the early adopter of the advanced agricultural sensor. Parrot has specifically built this sensor for Precision Agriculture and Farming industry. The sensor captures the images for the crops in various bands (red, green, NIR and RedEdge) which helps capturing reflectance of the crops which are the characteristic of the plant health. The Sequoia sensor is an amazing sensor packed with features. The Go-Pro sized sensor was small enough to be mounted on one of our Phantom 4 drones. We were able to survey a 20 acre plot using in just about 15 minutes and processed in Pix4d Ag Application. In about two hours the result was in front of us as the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) map:

Drone Technology

Precision Agriculture using Drones in India

 

Indrones’ Lab is now working on linking this data with ground samples and historic data to arrive at precise productivity estimates about the crop. We are looking forward to partner with various agricultural universities and agronomists to make the most of this amazing technology which has a great potential to serve the Agricultural Industry in India. With better data it is possible to estimate the expected yield and take corrective measures before a problem actually reduces the productivity of the crop. It is also very helpful to use drones for Agriculture for better products of Agricultural Insurance that secures the Farmers against any undue circumstances. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY) has one of its focuses to include technologies like Drones to be used in India Agricultural Scenarios. This is particularly helpful when comes to small land parcel sizes, the resolutions of Drone Data makes a huge difference.