India’s First Drone Policy

Prelims level : Defence / Mains: Paper – III Internal Security Mains level :
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  • Government of India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation announced guidelines on Monday for remotely piloted aircraft — or drones as they are more commonly known — which will come into effect from 1 December, aiming to open up an array of opportunities in the Indian civil aviation sector.
  • The guidelines would help foster technology and innovation in the development of drones ,devices which have an extensive range of applications ranging from disaster relief to agriculture.

Need of Regulation:

  • Drone technologies have been evolving very rapidly.
  • Many countries are still experimenting with their drone regulations and no ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) stands have been developed.
  • India’s security environment necessitates extra precautions.
  • Drone Regulations 1.0 have been formulated as an “all digital process” that will become effective from 1 December, which is when the “Digital Sky” platform will become operative.
  • The new Digital Sky platform will be the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements a ‘no permission, no take-off’ system for remotely piloted aircraft.
  • Users will be required to make one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners on the platform, which will also allow for online filing of a drone’s specific flight path and use.
  • Every flight users will be required to ask for permission to fly on a mobile app and an automated process permits or denies the request instantly.
  • To prevent unauthorised flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take-off.
  • The UTM platform operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on approved flight paths.


  • The new regulations have categorised drones into five separate types, on the basis of their weight.
  • The rules that apply for the drones will depend on the weight class that they fall into, which begin from under 250 grams and extend to over 150 kilograms.
  • The five types are Nano, micro, small, medium and large.
  • Other than Nano, all other categories of drones need to be registered with the government and issued with a Unique Identification Number (UIN).

Airspace, too, has been divided by the government into different zones. Here’s what they indicate:

  • Red Zone: Flying not permitted
  • Yellow Zone: Controlled airspace -permission required before flying
  • Green Zone: Uncontrolled airspace – automatic permission
  • Beyond these, there are also specific regions around the country that have been marked as ‘No Drone Zones’. Some of these No Drone Zones that have been defined are areas around airports, those near the international border called “strategic locations/vital and military installations”.


  • The use of remotely piloted aircraft, a kind of drone, is allowed for taking photographs, conducting surveys such as for laying of pipelines and agricultural purposes and surveillance.
  • They can be deployed for spraying of pesticides and delivery of relief material during a natural disaster only on a case-by-case basis.
  • Operations are allowed in daylight and within the visual range or a range of 450 m. Wedding photographers are allowed to use micro drones during night, if they are taking pictures in an enclosed premise which is also well-lit.


  • In addition to the multiple checks and balances put in place for drone operators, the government will also enforce punitive action against those who do not comply with these new regulations after 1 December.
  • The following enforcement actions have been stated by the civil aviation ministry
  • Suspension or cancellation of UIN/ UAOP in case of violation of regulatory provisions
  • Actions as per relevant Sections of the Aircraft Act 1934, or Aircraft Rules, or any statutory provisions
  • Penalties as per applicable sections in the Indian Penal Code (such as 287, 336, 337, 338, or other relevant sections in the IPC)
  • It will encourage a vast Make in India drone industry. These regulations will place the country among the global leaders in drone technology.
  • Our policy roadmap will certainly provide a strong impetus to all players in the drone ecosystem. We hope that these initiatives will enable unto create a vibrant new industry which India’s expertise in technology is characterised by its capacity to devise low-cost solutions.
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