KOCHI: Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) decision to legalise the operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones in late 2018 was heralded as a welcome move among media and surveillance circles. Even so, operating drones in India necessitates following stringent set of regulations bound with a licence-permit system.
While the DGCA is yet to start issuing Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit, the whole process is interlinked wherein drone manufacturers will be required to make their products NPNT or No Permission-No Takeoff compliant. NPNT is a software that would enable pilots to register their devices (to be tagged with a unique identification number) and apply for permission before every flight through an app called Digital Sky.
Although the directorate has listed 32 approved flying training organisations (FTOs) under its purview, they are awaiting further instructions to initiate training courses. As for now, a few private academies are offering training courses for aspiring drone pilots in association with the approved FTOs.
“As a private institute, we only have permission to provide training and certification for drones which fall below the 2 kg or micro category,” says Ram Sarath Kumar G, chief trainer at the Chennai based Indian Institute of Drones.
With the state government-run Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology being the only approved FTO in Kerala, there is an absence of a private player imparting drone training in the state at the moment. Aspirants either travel to Chennai or Bengaluru for a course that lasts three to seven days and costs anywhere between `10,000 and `50,000 depending on its structure.
Experts have identified a range of sectors where UAV technology can be positively utilised with far-reaching implications. “Apart from the obvious usage in photography, cinematography and surveillance, drones can be deployed in traffic management, marine patrolling, railway inspection, disaster and emergency rescue, environmental protection, border patrol, firefighting, geological mapping, mine monitoring and even agriculture,” says Ram Sarath.
Perhaps the reason why takers for drone pilot training are increasing by the day. “We have so far trained 139 batches since our inception in 2017. The demand for courses is only set to surge once DGCA comes up with a complete set of guidelines and FTOs are able to launch training in full-fledged manner,” he adds.
However, owing to the immense and disruptive potential of UAVs, the DGCA has prohibited the possibility of drone delivery of packages, being experimented in other countries. It is also illegal to import devices manufactured abroad. Furthermore, the government has delineated three zones as red, yellow and green.