May 31, 2021: To encourage drone usage in India, the Civil Aviation Ministry has permitted No-Permission-No-Takeoff (NPNT) compliant drone operations at 166 additional green zones. A report by the Economic Times stated that the drones will fly up to the height of 400 feet above the ground (AGL). These zones are in addition to the 66 green zone sites approved earlier. The states of Odisha and Jharkhand have got the highest number of approved new green zones. The complete list of the approved green zone sites can be accessed from here. The permitted new zones are in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh.
As per India’s drone regulations, the Indian air space is divided into 3 zones – the Red zone, where flying is not permitted, the Yellow zone, where flying is permitted in controlled airspace, and the Green zone, where automatic permission is granted.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) mandates that all NPNT compliant drones have to obtain valid permission through the 'Digital Sky' platform before operating in India. Without permission, the drones will not operate. Besides being NPNT compliant, the drones must have a Unique Identification Number (UIN)/UAS Operator Permit. See this link for NPNT compliant drones in India that are registered under DGCA.
Flying in the green zones will require only intimation of the time and location of the flights via the Digital Sky portal or the app. Moreover, the drone flying in the approved green zones shall be compliant with the Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021 dated 12th March 2021. The quantum of punishment for unauthorised flying and drone manufacture ranges from Rs 25,000 to Rs 5 lakh.
In February this year, at the FICCI Session on Drones & Counter-Drone Opportunities in Defence and Homeland Security at Aero India, Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India said that the vision of India is to be the drone hub of the world. Right now, the Indian market is yet to respond to the bulk of the drone components fully as drone technology is still nascent. The volumes are expected to come via the Demand-Supply-Regulations network.
To be a drone friendly nation and a global seat for future drone technologies, India needs to be driven by the impetus to address big challenges, have more green zones for safe drone flights, increase in Beyond Visual Line of Sight drone delivery, alongwith government initiatives for new solutions. While our country needs to be hard on the rule breakers, it must also be open to usher innovation. Only if the industry and government work in a concerted fashion, India has the potential to be the drone capital of the world.