India to test beyond visual range drones for preparing civil aviation regulations

File Photo: India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

New Delhi: In a bid to prepare regulatory framework for long-range drones operations, India will soon conduct ‘beyond visual light of sight’ test flights of unmanned aircraft systems.

The Narendra Modi government will also begin registering of drones in a few weeks to bring the operators under the regulatory framework, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said today.

At the ‘Drone Festival of India‘ here, Puri said the experiments to study the operations of commercial drones beyond visual line of sight range would be done this month and India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation will subsequently prepare and issue the draft Civil Aviation Requirements for drones.

Noting that potential use of drone technology for commercial use is very high, Puri said the Modi government was moving ahead with the beyond visual line of sight drone front.

“Civil Aviation Requirements 2.0 will revolutionise and commercialise the Beyond Visual Line of Sight drone operations,” he said. At present, India has a policy that does not allow use of beyond visual line of sight drones over the Indian skies.

Puri said India has the potential to become the global leader in all aspects of the industry, such as conceptualisation, designing, manufacturing and operations of the drone systems.

In addition, he said that a balanced approach would be required to be maintained between security and commercial considerations of these systems.

Drone Federation of India President Rahat Kulshreshtha, in his media interaction, said Indian drone manufacturers have all the ingredients to be at par with the world in developing top-of-the-line unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) but unfortunately, lack of friendly regulations have kept the industry away from a perfect take-off to date.

“We have seen in a bit of derailment with the timeline because regulations are not yet ready for the drone industry, which, frankly, is a complicated thing to work on,” Kulshreshtha said.

“Regulations have slowed down the industry as investors have been wary of infusing funds into the startups to date. We are running slightly slow on the timeline at the momentum but today, we have got good commitment from Civil Aviation Minister that the government is working on the regulations and would solve it together with the relevant stakeholders,” he said.

India currently has nearly 100 drone startups and the autonomous drone aviation industry has great potential ahead, he said, adding that “once the regulations open up, the skies open up. We are working on the policy front with the regulators and are a bridge between the drone industry and the regulators, aiming to build a safer and scalable autonomous drone aviation industry in India.”

The civil aviation ministry made public the draft note for Drone policy 2.0 last year, focusing on beyond visual line of sight operation. The draft Drone Policy 2.0 mandates a ”privacy by design” standard.

Kulshreshtha said every industry in the country could be impacted by the drone technology, be it agriculture, logistics, roads, railways, geographic information system, mapping, entertainment, sports, and oil sectors.

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