KOCHI: Superbikes, augmented reality games and hoverboards just went out of fad. The new rage: Drones! As teens turn to the sky to pump up the adrenaline, Customs officers in the state are in a fog as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) without valid papers are ‘flying’ into the country in droves.
Flyers returning from a jaunt abroad carry home drones along with their goods and chattels. As drones fall under the ‘restricted category’, Customs officials are forced to confiscate them, pending production of requisite documents for clearance.
According to Customs officers at the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery, as many as 26 remotely piloted aircraft have been confiscated, including toy drones, in January. On an average, around 30 drones are seized each month, the officers said.
They have advised flyers to abstain from bringing in or sending by post or courier drones without the stipulated clearance.
According to a notification issued by Anup Wadhawan, Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), import of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and remotely piloted aircrafts (RPAs) into the country without clearance from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and an import licence from DGFT is restricted.
“We have frequent run-ins with irate passengers who take umbrage at confiscating their drones. But we are bound by law to seize even toy drones as they fall under the restricted category. In the case of expensive drones, we allow the flyers to ship the UAVs back to the country from where they have sourced them,” Customs officers said.
The Union Government had recently amended the Customs Baggage Declaration regulations, making it mandatory for passengers to declare drones in Customs forms and obtain an import licence.
Till now, it was a breeze to bring in a drone from abroad as there was no declaration clause. Kochi range IG P Vijayan said though there is strict regulation on the use of drones, event management companies and film crew use them for aerial cinematography by brazenly flouting rules.
However, the police are keen on enforcing the rules with an iron fist in protected areas and during VIP visits. The police have also banned the use of private drones within the limits of vital installations like ports, airport, Navy, oil companies etc citing security reasons, Vijayan said. Civilian use of drones still remains a distant dream in India.