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Note on Draft Drone Policy 2.0

Note
18.01.19
Draft Drone Policy 2.0

The Minister of Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha released the draft Drone Policy 2.0 on 15th January, 2019. This is a recommendation and the policy will be finalized by a task force led by the Civil Aviation Secretary and the Director General of Civil Aviation. Till then, the first Drone Policy (Drone Policy 1.0 or Civil Aviation Requirements dated 27th August, 2018) which came into effect on 1st December, 2018 stands. The Drone Policy 1.0 lays down the requirements for operation of civil remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS (colloquially referred to as ‘drones’)).

Salient features:

  • New forms of air freight permitted– Under Drone Policy 1.0, the potential to exploit drones for commercial purposes was limited, for instance, through Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) requirements. The draft Drone Policy 2.0 recommends expanding operations to beyond VLOS and beyond the current limit of 400 feet. This creates an enabling framework for sellers to deliver orders using drones including food delivery. Under the current Drone Policy 1.0, RPA operations are restricted to within VLOS and to a limit of 400 feet above ground level (AGL), and the delivery of food through drones is not permitted (Q.32 in the RPAs FAQs). The draft policy is geared at exploiting the commercial potential of drones especially with respect to transport of temperature sensitive commodities like bodily organs, emergency/just-in-time deliveries of life-saving drugs or safe blood for transfusions and collection of patient specimens for delivery for time-sensitive testing in laboratories.
  • Mandates privacy by design– The draft Drone Policy 2.0 mandates a ‘privacy by design’ standard. Drone Policy 1.0 does not stipulate privacy standards to be adhered to by RPA operators though they are under an obligation to not compromise the privacy of any “entity”.[1]
  • Permits autonomous operations– The draft Drone Policy 2.0 proposes to allow autonomous aircraft i.e. the use of algorithms for piloting of drones subject to privacy, security and safety requirements. The Drone Policy 1.0 deals only with RPAs i.e. unmanned aircraft piloted from a remote pilot station. Autonomous aircraft and RPA are distinct categories of unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
  • Proposes development of Infrastructure (Drone corridors, Droneports and UAS Traffic Management (UTM))- The draft Drone Policy 2.0 conceives of drone corridors (segregated airspace demarcated by appropriate authorities) to keep commercial UAS operations out of non-segregated airspace in which manned aircraft operate. It is also proposed that UTM should be established which would be responsible for managing UAS induced traffic especially in drone corridors. Further, there should be designated areas known as ‘droneports’ to facilitate the landing and take-off of drones.
  • Proposes maximum life cycle for drones to ensure airworthiness – The draft Drone Policy 2.0 proposes prescribing a maximum life cycle for each drone type and operators must apply for re-certification at the end of a drone’s life cycle. This is over and above the requirements of equipment and maintenance under Drone Policy 1.0.
  • Recommends establishing a Drone Directorate- The draft Drone Policy 2.0 recommends establishing a Drone Directorate within the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) as the needs of the nascent drone industry may differ from those of the mature civil aviation industry.
  • Recognises DigitalSky Service Providers (DSPs)- The draft policy introduces new players in the DigitalSky ecosystem called DSPs, which would be public or private agencies registered in India, to provide enabling services to the UAS operators, DigitalSky Platform, relevant law enforcement authorities and/or any other stakeholder. One of the roles envisaged for DSPs is providing UTM services.
  • Permits 100% FDI – The draft policy proposes 100% FDI under automatic route in UAS and RPAS-based commercial civil aviation services. Under Drone Policy 1.0, there is no mention of FDI.

NASSCOM is studying the draft policy in detail. To discuss this further kindly contact Ms. Devika Agarwal at Dagarwal@nasscom.in

[1] Drone Policy 1.0 uses the word “entity” without clarifying whether “entity” includes individuals.

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