Chinese nano drones on Customs radar

“Most people do not respond to the notice but a few reply saying it was bought for their children and they did not know the rules.
(Express Illustrations: Amit Bandre)
(Express Illustrations: Amit Bandre)

BENGALURU: People’s desire to purchase drones cheap online from China-based outlets, clubbed with complete ignorance of rules, has resulted in the Customs department in Karnataka dispatching a total of 1,213 drones to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence so far. The consignments had reached the Foreign Post Office (FPO) at Chamarajpet, Bengaluru, in individual parcels over a period of a year.

Reliable sources told TNIE, “Nearly 95 per cent of these are nano drones while the rest are micro drones. The nano ones are like toy drones, weigh up to 50 gm and can reach a height of 30-40 feet only. However, they cannot be purchased without permission from the government. Since they are available for prices ranging between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000, depending on the product from e-commerce sites, many show keenness to purchase them.”

The drones are easily visible when the parcel is run through scanners at the FPO. The Customs department carries out “an absolute confiscation” for drones imported in this fashion, another source explained. The department issues a show-cause notice to the addressee asking the individual to explain why it was purchased and the lack of authorisation for it.

“Most people do not respond to the notice but a few reply saying it was bought for their children and they did not know the rules. A fine of Rs 5,000 is also levied, but again very few pay up. But we do not pursue that as it is mostly ignorance and not any male fide intention on the part of buyers,” he added. 

Majority of drone buyers from B’luru

The purchasers are spread across the state with a majority of them in Bengaluru. Barring one individual, there are no repeat purchasers of such products, the source said. Asked why the consignments had been held back for so long, a source said that it had to be despatched by trucks to the Chennai Customs office. “It costs us at least Rs 1 lakh to package them and send them over.

Hence, we send them in one go,” he added. An Equipment Type Approval (ETA) certificate from the Wireless Planning Co-ordination Wing of India is mandatory to buy drones. It can be done online at https:// after paying a one-time registration fee of Rs 10,000, he explained. There is a complete lack of awareness about these procedures, he said.

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The New Indian Express