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Government paves way for drone commerce

Pizzas, medicines and mobile phones being delivered by drones at customers’ doorstep is now closer to becoming a reality in India.

The government on Wednesday paved the way for drones to be at your service by announcing draft rules that permit commercial use of “remotely-piloted aircraft systems”.

Commercial drones are proposed to be used within a flying zone of less than 200 metre height and only during daytime. Till now use of drones by civilians was banned and confined to security or other government agencies.

Civil aviation minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju said, “The drone industry could help India’s development in several sectors such as agriculture and oil and gas.”

Mr Raju said his ministry was working for Ease of Doing Business in the drone industry.

Minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said, “We want to make India the world’s leader in the use of drones.”

He also indicated that with rapidly-evolving technology, there may come a time when even “air-rickshaws” ferrying passengers at reasonable fares becomes a reality.

The government hopes to issue the final rules, drafted by the aviation regulator, by December 31 after consultations with stakeholders.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s draft regulations have classified drones based on their maximum take-off weight. Drones less than or equal to 250 gm have been classified as “nano”; those greater than 250 gm and less than or equal to 2 kg are classified as “micro”; greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg have been classified as “mini”; drones that are greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg will be termed “small”; while those greater than 150 kg will be “large”.

“Except for the nano category and those operated by government security agencies, all other commercial drones will be registered by the DGCA with a unique identification number (UIN) each. Mini and above categories will require Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP),” said a government statement.

“Except for nano and micro category, remote pilot will have to undergo requisite training. All drones are proposed to be operated in visual line of sight during day time only and below 200 feet. Dropping of any substance, carriage of hazardous material or animal or human payload is not permitted,” the government stated.

Ministry officials said drones could be soon used for purposes including e-commerce, medical supplies, delivery of blood in emergency cases, inspection of oil pipelines and even for other activities such as wildlife photography.

The government said security concerns were being taken seriously and it is working on technical solutions to neutralise “rogue drones”.

In the draft rules, certain areas have been declared “no drone zones”. Area in a 5 km radius from Vijay Chowk in New Delhi, which houses Parliament and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, will be one such restricted zone.

The “no drone-zone” will also include areas “within 5 km” radius from airports and “within 50 km from the international border” which includes areas near the Line of Control with Pakistan and the China border.

Drones in the micro and more heavier categories will need safety equipment, including “anti-collision lights”.

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