Telangana’s high-flying drone dreams closer to reality

Organs for transplant could soon come via UAVs as DGCA responds positively to Telangana’s requests 

Published: 06th August 2019 03:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th August 2019 03:21 AM   |  A+A-

Illustration: TAPAS RANJAN

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  Unmanned  Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have long been one of the dream projects of the tech-savvy Telangana government. News is that the State has found a way around the regulations set by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which were the primary hurdles in its plans to use drone technology for developmental programmes. 

“Drones are being used for various developmental projects including urban mapping, medical and health infrastructure, and most importantly, agriculture,” Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, ITEC told Express. The State’s latest project, which it has taken up in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, is an innovative drone-delivery project — ‘Medicine from the Sky’. 

“To keep the ambitious project on track, the government has written to the DGCA, requesting it to consider revising certain clauses of its drone regulations. One of them being the issue of ‘visual line of sight’ that requires a drone to be within the visual line of sight of the pilot,” explains Ranjan. 

According to Rama Devi, OSD, Emerging Technology of Telangana government, the DGCA has reportedly responded positively to the government’s requests. It has also hinted at accepting amendments in Clause 12.18 of the Operating Requirements in the next set of regulations, as and when they are released. “With regard to the ‘Medicines in the Sky’ programme, we are not only hoping to deliver vaccines and medicines, but also organs for emergency transplants,” assures Rama Devi.

According to Clause 12.18 of Operating Requirements, the RPA cannot discharge or drop substances unless specially cleared and mentioned in the UAOP. Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) is the set of regulations issued by the DGCA for compliance by all drone pilots in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace. 

Some of the key regulations that could significantly affect the developmental drone programmes would be the restrictions on drones to be operated only during the day and also, within visual line of sight of the pilot. 

A distance of 25 km distance must be maintained from the international border, LOC and Line of Actual Control. A drone should not be operated within an area of 5 km around an airport, 500 m from perimeter of strategic locations notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs, or from the perimeter of military installations or facilities. 

Regulations need to be specific to India

According to Mehernoush Dittia, founder of Indian Drone Academy, Hyderabad, there is an urgent need for the DGCA to formulate regulations that are specific to India. Most of the current laws are borrowed from western countries. He further said that if the DGCA does amend the regulations, it will attract big corporations into the drone market, which is currently dominated by small-time players like startups. “These big players could then potentially wipe out all small competition,” said Dittia

Foreigners can’t fly drones

Under the present regulations, foreign nationals are currently not allowed to fly drones in India. For commercial purposes, they need to lease the drone to an Indian entity who in turn will have to obtain a UIN and Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit from the DGCA

25 km distance must be maintained from the international border, LOC and Line of Actual Control when flying a drone

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