drone, logistics drone, package drone

A Study on the Drone Policy Laws and its influence in India

Abstract

This research examines the breath of the Indian government’s drone restrictions, both for civilian and commercial use. It also discusses the planned system for enforcing the rules. The study discusses two notable concerns that need to be solved. The first is if regulatory measures are required for the development of drone operations, and the second is if privacy and trespassing conflicts should be addressed. The report suggests various recommended practices for drone operators to prevent privacy-related problems. The paper examines the various viewpoints taken by countries on drone policies.

Keywords: Drone, UAV, Regulations, Privacy, Safety, Policy.

Introduction

The Internet has substantially torn down physical barriers and brought people closer together; and countless innovative innovations have supplied humanity with a multitude of benefits. The increased usage of drones is one such revolution in the making. Drones have opened up a variety of commercial uses in several industries, including product delivery to end-consumers, gathering aerial footage for news purposes by journalists, entertainment and transportation. Drones have also been used by governments and armies across the world to guard international boundaries and for other law enforcement objectives. The global market for unmanned aerial vehicles is predicted to reach USD 5.59 billion by 2020, representing a 32.22% compound annual growth rate from 2015 and 2020. Drones have a wide range of uses in both the civic and business sectors. Drones are utilised in the development industry for aerial mapping and monitoring vital infrastructure sites like ports and power plants. With activity in these industries increasing, the usage of drones is projected to skyrocket in the next few years. Ecommerce merchants are likewise interested in deploying drones to deliver packages to customers’ homes. According to a report by Goldman Sachs, worldwide spending on drones is likely to exceed $100 billion by 2022.

According to market research projections, India will be one of the fastest expanding markets for UAVs. According to BIS Research, India’s drone industry would be valued at $885 million by 2021, while the global market will be worth $21 billion. In six major industries, the government and commercial sector are exploring the possibilities of drones, which might be the driving force behind much of India’s progress. Agriculture, energy, infrastructure, insurance, media and entertainment, and mining are the important sectors. However, a booming industry would require appropriate laws and support from the government. The Indian judicial system’s relationship with drones has been dramatic and volatile. The level of restrictions and compliance requirements set by the Indian government when it issued the new drone law in March 2021 surprised the sector. This was despite the government’s years of discussions and agreements with many parties. However, in August 2021, the government amended the laws on drones for the second time in the same year, this time virtually fully relaxing them.

The intriguing potential of drones and their employment would have been a major motivating force behind this unusual legislative move. Despite their many benefits, drones have a significant risk of being misused. Various stakeholders have highlighted concerns about the chilling effects on privacy and security rights caused by unwanted surveillance, tracking, and profiling utilising such data acquired across jurisdictions. The presented research paper gives a quick overview of the idea of drones, the technology that they may integrate with, and their existing commercial capabilities and applications. It also examines the legal concerns surrounding drone use, as well as giving a comparison of regulatory systems across nations. The current discussion on the drone policy is contemporary and very important too since the UAV market has a lot of potential. But, the chances of drone misuse are very high. Hence, proper legal framework is the need of the hour that successfully propels the UAV industry in India to new heights whilst also keeping the concern in check. All present research papers and articles discuss the international laws for this industry. The laws introduced in India recently have not been talked about in depth due to how recent it is, which makes this paper very relevant and informative.

Objectives of the Paper:

  • To study the drone industry in India.
  • To analyse the laws of this industry of both India and other countries and draw inferences.
  • To evaluate the laws in India and make recommendations.

Research Methodology:

This paper follows the method of secondary research to collect information. The paper first introduces UAVs and talks about the need to frame appropriate laws. The paper then explains the reason for the rise in this industry and the laws introduced in 2021 which aim to liberalise the sector. The paper is concluded by giving recommendations to the present laws for improving the space.

Review of Literature

Rajagopalan, R.P., & Krishna, R. (2019) discuss extensively about the importance of the UAV industry and its rise in India. This research also examines the breath of the Indian government’s drone restrictions, both for civilian and commercial use. It also discusses the planned system for enforcing the rules. The study focuses on two important problems that must be addressed. The first is to determine if regulatory measures are required for the development of drone operations, and the second is to answer issues about drones’ breach of privacy. The report suggests various recommended practices for drone operators to prevent privacy-related problems. According to the report, the data collecting procedures by the standards mentioned and inherent in data protection regulations such as the GDPR should be followed by UAVs. One such example is the GDPR of the European Union. The paper examines the various viewpoints taken by countries on drone policies. The report also looks into chances for collaboration in drone governance, as well as India’s ability to play a larger role as a leading regulator in the global endeavour to meet global imperatives. The paper finally gives suggestions for the current laws that can potentially further help the industry, citizens and government whilst also keeping in check the safety concerns.

Nishith Desai Associates (2018), in its research paper, talks about the future of UAVs in India and the world. The paper states that the drone sector has a potential of providing an economic boost coupled with global investments. The economic rewards also factor into the urge to develop, which might result in not just improved drones but also new products. However, the emergence of drones has posed a number of regulatory issues, including individual privacy, community safety, airspace, and civil rights, among others. As a result, developing a symbiotic integration of law, tax, and civil freedoms would be critical to the effectiveness of drones. Further, as the public’s perception of drones grows and support for prospective markets grows, prompt implementation of comprehensive and adaptable drone rules can go a long way toward capitalising on this potential. Many stakeholders should join together and collaborate to develop a comprehensive policy framework for drone control that maintains a healthy balance between innovation, development, and safety. The paper concludes by framing a path for the future where assumptions are made regarding what will likely happen.

Nishith Desai (2021) talks about the more recent updates in the UAV industry, including the revolution brought in the country due to favourable policies. The paper states that countries all around the world are looking at drone regulation in order to stay up with technological advancements while also ensuring public safety and security. Several nations, including the United States, Australia, Singapore, and South Africa, have passed legislation covering the management, production, and operation of drones. India has also made a step in this direction by creating the new rules, which allow for more freedom in drone operations in the nation. Also, the paper mentions how the new laws have helped the industry. The paper states that while the new legislation has completely opened up the drone industry to both local and international competitors, the job is far from done. As the number of players in the industry grows, new regulatory and security problems will emerge, which participants will need to assess. To build public trust in drones, all stakeholders will need to put in significant effort to ensure that drone activities are safe. Given the new regulatory environment, industry actors might consider extensive discussions on standards to be implemented, as well as a self-regulatory framework to guarantee that the acts of a few careless operators do not contribute to a negative public perception of drones.

Global Drone Regulations

The International Organization for Standardization established a technical committee on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in 2014. The committee’s activity includes standardisation of categorization, design, production, operation, and safety management of UAS activities, among other things. Similarly, there are a number of additional standards pertaining to UAS traffic management, staff training, and so on, some of which have been published and others which are in the works.

United States of America: According to the Federal Aviation Association of the United States, there were over 860,000 drones registered in the country as of September 2021, with roughly 60% being for recreational use and 40% being for commercial use. The United States is a world leader in drone technology, and it has been working on building a drone regulatory framework for over a decade. From 2013, at least 44 states have enacted laws regulating unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2019, California passed laws making it a misdemeanour to operate a UAS in a manner that may infringe on one’s privacy. Eight states approved a total of 11 pieces of legislation aiming towards UAS regulation in 2020, including Idaho, Minnesota, and Massachusetts. Historically, state regulations have been supplanted by FAA regulations. The FAA published the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Regulation (Part 107) under Title 14, Chapter I of the Code of Federal Regulations for Aeronautics and Space on June 28, 2016. The rule establishes criteria for the operational use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) weighing less than 55 pounds and covers a wide range of commercial and government drone applications. Part 107 stipulates that a drone must operate solely in uncontrolled airspace and remain within the remote pilot’s visual line of sight.

Canada: A regulatory framework for non-military drone use has been established by Transport Canada Civil Aviation (“TCCA”). Because all drones are categorised as aircraft, drone operators must adhere to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR). All drones weighing between 250g and 25kg must be registered with the TCCA before flying. Basic and advanced qualifications are available to pilots. The basic certification permits a pilot to fly drones weighing up to 25kg in uncontrolled airspace, as long as they stay at least 100 feet away from onlookers horizontally and not above them, and as long as they stay clear of airports and heliports. Advanced certification is required for pilots who want to fly beyond any of these parameters. Drone registration and pilot certification are not required for micro drones weighing less than 250 grams.Enhancing VLOS laws and adopting a BVLOS framework are two key policy aims now being pursued, all of which would aid advanced drone activities such as surveillance and deliveries.

The European Union: The EU, like the US, has a specific set of laws for drone operations that are tailored to the interests of its member states. In March 2017, the European Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA”) issued regulations governing air traffic management and location services. This rule divided UAS into three groups based on their maximum take-off mass: systems with a mass of less than 5 kg, systems with a mass of 5–25 kg, and systems with a mass of more than 25 kg. The EASA debated the registration of all drones, regardless of their mass, the next year.

The Drone Rules, 2021 in India

In May 2014, a pizzeria in Mumbai delivered a pizza to considerable excitement, which was one of the first achievements for drones in India. Drones were prohibited by the police once they realised there were no restrictions in place. Drones have become a major issue of discussion in India ever since, in terms of legislation, usage, and operations, due to the enormous potential they have. Until late in 2021, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (“DGCA”) and the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (“DGFT”) imposed restrictive legislation and orders restricting the civil use and import of drones in India, respectively.

The Government of India, on the other hand, revamped the civil drone system in India in August 2021, notifying the Drone Rules, 2021. This replaces the widely panned and extremely restricted Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021, which were published in March 2021. The Government has greatly liberalised the drone system as a result of the New Rules, including removing express prohibitions on foreign-owned and controlled Indian enterprises and streamlining the drone registration and certification procedure, among other things. A “drone” is described as an “unmanned aircraft system,” or “UAS,” which is defined as “an aircraft that can fly autonomously or remotely without a pilot on board.” Furthermore, the rules classify drones similarly to the previous rules, with one exception: under the earlier rules, Nano Drones would be classified as Micro Drones if they exceeded the specified performance parameters based on the maximum speed, height, or range attainable from the remote. This performance-based categorization of Nano Drones has been eliminated.

The previous regimes mandated the installation of a large number of safety mechanisms on all sorts of drones, which was another source of concern for the business. While the new laws do not specifically specify these safety features, they do state that the government has the authority to notify required safety features such as no permission no take-off, real-time tracking beacons, and geo-fencing capabilities. As of now, there appear to be no mandated safety safeguards for drones to be placed. However, the government’s inclusion of the above elements implies that at the very least these features will be made necessary in the near future. Following that, every drone owner would have to verify that these functionalities were implemented within 6 months of the notification. A drone’s UIN must be linked to the manufacturer’s “unique serial number” as well as the flight control module and remote pilot station.

The updated legislation makes it illegal to change the flight control module or the remote pilot station without first updating the unique serial number with the Digital Sky Platform within seven days of the replacement or before the drone is operated, whichever comes first. Foreign corporations or their majority or completely owned Indian subsidiaries were previously prohibited from owning, operating, producing, or otherwise dealing with drones in India under the previous rules. The government has lifted limitations on drone activities in India. As a result, the drone system has been liberalised for the first time since the industry was controlled, allowing FOCCs to build and operate drones in India, among other things. Foreign investment is anticipated to flow in as a result of the liberalisation, as well as safer and more advanced drone technology, which would otherwise have to be built from scratch by domestic companies. The earlier rules featured extremely stringent restrictions governing the conduct of research, development, and testing (“R&D”) operations. The new rules have also drastically eased this requirement, allowing any drone manufacturer with a GST identification number to perform R&D without the need for a type certificate. The Central Government announced a Production-linked Incentive (“PLI”) plan for drones and drone components in a news release dated September 15, 2021, with the goal of making India a worldwide drone centre by 2030. As a follow-up to the New Rules, the PLI plan was created. The Indian government estimates that the drone sector would get over INR 5000 crore (US$ 6.8 billion) in investment over the next three years under the plan. The scheme’s budget is INR 120 crore, which will be distributed over three financial years and may be extended or redrafted when the industry’s impact is assessed. An incentive of up to 20% of the value addition produced by a producer of drones and drone components covered by the plan is determined as yearly sales income included of GST minus the procurement cost of drones. In the drone business, this rate will remain constant at 20%. While the new rules encourage various stakeholders to investigate and expand the drone sector, it appears that there is a general absence of a framework for drone activities from a safety and security standpoint.

Suggestions

As the public’s perception of drones grows and support for prospective markets grows, prompt implementation of comprehensive and adaptable drone rules would go a long way toward capitalising on this opportunity. Using historical lessons as a guide, different stakeholders should collaborate to establish a detailed policy framework for drone legislation that maintains a healthy balance of innovation, progress, and safety. Hence, certain suggestions have been listed below to correct the scope of these laws.

The UAS Rules also included a provision for drone traffic management, as well as the process for getting authorization in this respect. In addition to traffic management services, the UAS Rules stipulated that traffic management professionals be licenced and that a drone traffic management training organisation be authorised. The drone traffic management training organisation was accessible to private organisations as well under the UAS Rules. The Draft Rules, on the other hand, do not specify the method or procedure in this respect. The method and structure established by the UAS Rules are absent from the Draft Rules. Furthermore, to fully comprehend the complexities of drone traffic management, proposed Rule 26 must be read in conjunction with proposed Rule 11, which lays out the safety criteria. It should be emphasised that the specific requirements under proposed Rule 11 have not been declared, and the Central Government is required to supply them within six months of the Draft Rules being published. To minimise ambiguity, the Draft Rules must explicitly describe the list of offences as well as the corresponding punishments. To hear cases arising from the Draft Rules, a special tribunal must be established.

Conclusion

Countries all around the world are looking at drone regulation in order to stay up with technological advancements while also assuring public safety and security. Several nations, including the United States, Australia, Singapore, and South Africa, have passed legislation, while many more are debating and consulting on complete regulations for this technology. India has also made a step in this direction which allows for more freedom in drone operations in the nation, allowing for the growth and development of a variety of sectors that want to use drone technology for their services. While the new regulations have completely opened up the drone industry to both local and international competitors, the job is far from done. As the number of players in the industry grows, new regulatory and security problems will emerge, which participants will need to assess. To build public trust in drones, all stakeholders will need to put in significant effort to ensure that drone activities are both safe and welcome. Given the new regulatory environment, industry actors might consider extensive discussions on standards to be implemented, as well as a self-regulatory framework to guarantee that the acts of a few careless operators do not contribute to a negative public perception of drones.

Endnotes

Nishith Desai Associates, The Global Drone Revolution, 1, 20, (2021).

Rajagopalan, R.P., & Krishna, R., India’s Drone Policy: Domestic and Global Imperatives. ICAO Scientific Review: Analytics and Management Research, 1, 53-68. (2019). Retrieved from: http://isr.icao.int/amr/Volume01/v1p053-068Rajagopalan5144.pdf

Drone industry will have turnover of upto Rs.15000 cr by 2026: Scindia, (February 20, 2022), Available at: https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/drone-industry-will-have-turnover-of-up-to-rs-15-000-cr-by-2026-scindia-121091600945_1.html

Divya Joshi, Drone technology uses and applications for commercial, industrial and military drones in 2020 and the future, (February 18, 2022), Available at: https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/news/drone-technology-uses-and-applications-for-commercial-industrial-and-military-drones-in-2020-and-thefuture/articleshow/72874958.cms (Last accessed on October 05, 2021)

Fintan Corn Drones for deliveries from Medicines to Post, Packages and Pizza, available at: https://www.dronezon.com/drones-for-good/drone-parcel-pizza-delivery-service/ (Last accessed on February 21, 2022)

Mayank Mehta, India’s Anti-Drone Technology: How to neutralize any future drone attacks, (July 13, 2021) available at: https://www.indiatimes.com/technology/science-and-future/india-anti-drone-technology-uas-attack-defence-544524.html (Last accessed on October 19, 2021); See also for USA, Department of Defense Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (June 07, 2021), available at: https://sgp.fas.org/crs/weapons/IF11426.pdf (Last accessed on February 19, 2022)

Xin Zhang and Ho Duan, “An improved constrained differential evolution algorithm for unmanned aerial vehicle global route planning,” Applied Soft Computing, vol. 26, pp. 270–284, (2015).

Ganesh Narki, Believe it or not: Drones to deliver Pizza to your houses in Mumbai, available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/believe-it-ornot-frying-drones-to-deliver-pizzas-in-mumbai-193892-2014-05-22 (Last accessed on February 20, 2022).

This paper is authored by Parv Baxi, a Second Year Student at Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS, Mumbai.