The commendable ease of life socially, economically, politically and even religiously witnessed in the present society is the result of consistent and purpose-driven research and breathtaking inventions.
Technological advancements had seen the creation of new devices and machines as well as the modification of the existing ones in order to attain maximum utility of the devices manufactured thereby lessening the burden of living. The outcome of these researches is the emergence of among other an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle commonly called Drone(s).
In India, a drone must have the following components with the exception of nano drone; these minimum but mandatory requirements include:
- A GPS which is a device with software consisting of a navigation system that reports the location, time and the weather information anywhere in the world.
- Return-to-home (RTH): This feature is mostly functional within 20 meters radius of the take-off of the drone which will trigger the drone to return to where it took off.
- An Anti-collision indicator: As the name implies is a sensor which helps the drone to fly without collision.
- ID Plate: This is the label or means of identifying a drone or its owner which must be engraved at fire and waterproof part of the drone.
- A flight controller with flight data logging capability.
- RF ID controls the transmission of a signal from the sent from the drone sent and received from the control system through the radio wave.
WHAT THEN IS A DRONE?
This is a form of vehicle that is capable of flying in the air without the direct control of a person. Alternatively, drones are miniature aircraft without a pilot but remotely controlled.
In India unlike in most countries, the use of a Drone is legal but in accordance with the laid down guidelines for its use. Drones as the subject of this brief Article shall be discussed under the following headings:
- The various types of Drones
- The uses of drones
- The legal framework governing the use of drones
TYPES OF DRONES
In India, drones are of different kinds. They are basically stratified into five types based on their sizes and weights. The five types of drones are:
- Nano Drones
- Micro Drones
- Small Drones
- Medium Drones
- Large Drones
These types of drones usually weigh about 250 grams or less. They are so small in size and light in weight to such extent that they can fit into the palm.
Drones which fall under this classification weigh from 250 grams but does not exceed two (2) kilograms.
Drones under this classification weigh from two (2) kilograms to twenty-five (25) kilograms
Drones are referred to as medium when it weighs from 25kg to 150kg.
Where the weight of the drone exceeds 150 kg, the said drone is automatically stratified as a large drone.
THE USES OF DRONES-
Having rendered a working definition of a drone as well as succinctly explaining the types of drones with the essential components of drones, it is pertinent to mention the uses of drones in our present society.
To a great extent, it is the uses of drones in our society that will underscore its need and the need to continuously improve on the present stage of technology in relation to drones. The need for drones may arise in the following sectors of the society:
- In the Agricultural sector.
- Security/Military sector.
- Entertainment Industry
IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR-
The Agricultural Sector is one of the sectors where the use of Drones will yield an unequivocal benefit. Generally, drones in the agricultural sector are employed to collect a variety of pictorial data in the agricultural sector which will aid in no small measure in ascertaining:
- The health and the general growth of the plant.
- The possible number of the plants on the farm.
- The extent of the soil nutrient available to the entire crops.
- The presence of disease and weed.
- Observing the extent of drought in the farm.
- With respect to livestock, drones are used to monitor the location, health and physical status of animals over time at a lower cost
IN THE SECURITY/MILITARY SECTORS
The military with the advent of technologies and artificial intelligence has advanced beyond the traditional status of warmongers and war machines. Therefore the use of drones in the military will be of immense benefit in the intelligence gathering and defense logistics. However:
- Drones are used in the security and military sector to conduct reconnaissance.
- Drones are also used to conduct combat and simulation of the enemies weapons.
- Drones are used to study the terrain, that is, the topography in order to determine the route the military, security agencies, and their equipment may use.
THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK GOVERNING THE USE OF DRONES
From the features and usage of a drone, the stipulation of the rules guiding its usage in India is under the Aviation sector. While extolling the relevance of drones in our present-day society, it is worthy to restate that drones only became legal in India in 2018.
The legality of the use drones are subject to some laid down condition precedents and additional conditions which the owners and users must continue to observe otherwise the unfettered use of drones will inadvertently lead to illegalities which will outweigh its present advantages.
These are the rules, to which the owners and users of drones must comply within India:
- All drones to the exclusion of Nano drones as stated above must be registered and issued a Unique Identification Number (UIN).
- A permit is a prerequisite for the commercial use of drones with the exception of the Nano drones of which the user is within 50 feet and the Microdrones have flown below 200 feet.
- Drone operators with the exception of National Technical Research Organization, Aviation Research Centre and Central Intelligence Agency, drone operators are required to have an ‘Unmanned Aerial Operator Permit’ (UAOP) or Remote Pilot license with a validity period of five years in order to operate above 200 feet.
- Drone pilots (in control of the remote control) must maintain a direct visual line of sight at all times while flying.
- Drones cannot be flown beyond 400 feet vertically. Therefore, a flying beyond 400 feet in a zig-zag or horizontal flight pattern is totally disallowed.
- The drone operator must accord recognition to the right to privacy of other persons when flying Drone.
- The Drones must be flown during daylight hours in good atmospheric conditions.
- Where an area is designated as “No Fly Zone”, example given is the airports and its surroundings, international borders, State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic and classified locations, and military installations; it shall be unlawful for Drones to fly within such prohibited areas.
- It is imperative to obtain permission to fly in controlled airspace can be obtained by applying for a flight plan and obtaining a unique Air Defense Clearance (ADC)/Flight Information Center (FIC) number.
- Insurance cover which shall substantially cover the conceivable risks and damages that may be occasioned by the use of drones must be secured by the operators.
An online platform known as Digital Sky which came into operation from the 1st day of December 2018 is charged with the responsibility of receiving applications and issuance of all forms of permits relating to the operation of drones in India. The procedure for such an application is as laid out on the website of the Digital Sky.
Before a person is permitted to fly a drone such person must be above the age of Eighteen (18) with a minimum of ten (10) classes in English language and must have undergone such training from an approved flight training institute.
Before every single flight, drone pilots are required to request permission to fly via a mobile app, which will automatically process the request and grant or reject it. India is calling their system “No Permission, No Takeoff” (NPNT). If a drone pilot tries to fly without receiving permission from the Digital Sky Platform, he or she will simply not be able to takeoff.
All drone operators will register their drone and request permission to fly for each flight through India’s Digital Sky Platform. The Digital Sky Platform and further details will be available on the DGCA website from December 1, 2018.
The use of rogue or unauthorized drones is expressly unlawful. Where a drone user, owner or operator violates any of the above-mentioned guidelines for its use the following punishment(s) awaits the defaulter.
Cancellation or the suspension of the licenses and other applicable punishments under the aviation rules as encapsulated under the Aircraft Act.
While most countries in Africa and the Middle East are occupied with promulgating laws which prohibit or narrowly permit the use of drones, India had taken the giant stride in view of the overriding benefits to legalizing the use of Drones.
It is submitted with great respect that legalizing the ownership and use of Drones is a shift in the right direction which countries that are yet to do must immediately do within the shortest time. The pilot stage of its usage will be confronted with a high rate of breach of the guideline permitting its use in the first instance.
In the European countries, the continued use of Drones for various reasons like recreational, agricultural, and military operations due to their high convenience in reducing the losses and enabling the execution of high profile missions cannot be overemphasized.
Taking a look at the European countries, the advantages of legalizing the use of Drones obviously outweighs the disadvantages its usage must have caused.
It is therefore suggested that breach of the guidelines regulating the use of drones in India which is highly likely must not be allowed to be a discouraging factor for the authorities, as it is for every intent and purpose meant to educate the regulatory bodies on the further modification which through laws the use of drones will be subjected to.
The instrumentality of laws and regulations should be promptly employed to curb any form of mischief which legalizing the use of drone may occasion.