Drones have been in news around for quite long now! Use as well as no-use of drones will affect many industries and businesses directly or indirectly. Below are few interesting facts on drones across world:
- There is a health care based company in California named Zipline which is the world’s first and only national scale drone delivery service, manufacturing its own drones and using drone technology to deliver orders to hospitals and other medical institutions within minutes. Recently Government of Maharashtra and Zipline, announced a partnership through which revolutionary new service is expected to launch in early 2020 for on-demand and emergency deliveries of blood products, vaccines and life-saving medications using Zipline drones. Apollo Hospitals is also allegedly tying up with them to launch health care delivery solutions including delivery of emergency aids & organs using drone technology. Considering this, drones can resolve a huge gap that India faces for making medicines available on time and at remote areas.
- Walgreens, a pharmacy store chain in USA recently announced that it is working with a drone delivery service to deliver food, beverages, over the counter medicines and other items within minutes using drone technology.
- Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) has recently shown interest in using drone technology for applying pesticide in agriculture and horticulture fields in India. This is a welcoming change as health issues will be reduced with less or no human intervention while applying pesticides.
- Antwork, a startup in China has recently received certification from necessary authorities to do urban parcel delivery using drones technology. In India, Zomato has been in news to successfully test drone-based food delivery.
- India has kicked off a project to digitally map the country using drones technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is expected to conclude in 2 years. All this data collection using drones technology and artificial intelligence is done with an idea to make digital maps available for everybody.
- Recently Saudi Arabia has been in news as some Yemen based Houthis rebels have damaged facilities that process the majority of Saudi Arabia’s crude output using drone technology. This has become a worldwide issue thereby increasing the cost of oil to most of oil importing countries, including India.
It is set principle that nothing can be implemented smoothly; unless rules and formal processes are lay down by appropriate authorities to regulate the same. Recently the Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Government of India has laid down rules under Section 3 – Air Transport Series X Part I Issue I, Dated 27 August, 2018, effective from December 1, 2018 for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)-Drones.
The said rules (available @ http://dgca.nic.in/cars/D3X-X1.pdf) cover the (i) applicability of the rules, (ii) process and the information to be submitted for obtaining licenses from appropriate authorities for drones, (iii) scenarios where licenses are not required to be obtained for drones and vice versa, (iv) safety and security norms to be followed while flying drones, (v) training requirements to be adhered to for flying drones, (vi) maintenance, equipment and operating requirements as well as restrictions and other general requirements to be adhered to while using drones, (vii) minimum standards to be maintained while manufacturing drones along with other legal obligation and insurance to be availed for using drones, and (viii) powers of Enforcement Directorate in case of violation of said rules and applicable penal provisions in case of breach of compliance.
Following are my views on the same:
- Considering the development of technology, we need to be prepared with the regulations for use/ non-use of drones with no pilot on board along with the already formulated RPA rules too.
- The rules also need to consider the effect that the drones will have on privacy laws and data protection and formulate necessary regulations around the same. Considering the recent times and increase in use of technology, we need detailed and strict rules along with monitoring measures for privacy and data protection.
- Though the rules lay down series of strict regulations with respect to classification, permissions, requirements of using drones in India, the rules also need to specifically state about the manner in which each breach will be monitored and dealt by the regulating authorities and supporting provisions for the same may be formulated. Individuals have been booked for flying drones without proper permissions; recently 2 individuals in Tardeo, Mumbai were booked for flying drones during Ganpati procession without permission. Individuals using drones must be aware about the basic do’s and don’ts available on http://dgca.nic.in/cars/RPAS-Do’s%20and%20Don’ts.pdf to avoid any misuse of drones/ breach of rules.
- The rules also need to further detail specific timelines that the various procedures and clearances will require for drones application, license, permissions, etc., thereby making it a time-bound process.
- The rules allow operation of drones in day only i.e. Visual Line of Sight; however, in order to increase the scope of using the drones stricter regulation may be formulated to operate drones in night vision too, subject to observance of necessary process and regulations.
- The ‘Digital Sky Platform’ @ https://digitalsky.dgca.gov.in/ which is an online portal developed for handling drone application in India may be made more user-friendly.
- The regulatory authorities may have to come up with additional regulations and notifications to further detail the existing law on drones by involving appropriate ministry industry wise, considering many startups and organisations including government have been investing and testing use of drones in India. There is no doubt that the drones will change, rather is changing, the field of healthcare, media, delivery, defense, weather forecasting, internet, infrastructure, advertising, etc. to name a few. Rules needs to be formulated for use for drones in defense sector to regularize any misuse of drones.
- The agreements/ documents that would be entered into with companies involved in drone technology must cover the aspects and the process for which the drones will be used in India and necessary representations and indemnities may be obtained by such companies in case the drone technology is used beyond the scope agreed, in violation of SOP’s prepared by such companies, or in violating of data protection and privacy laws applicable.
- Investors, today, have become speculative about their investment in drone technology sector and lack of appropriate and detailed regulations might be one of the reasons.
Considering the increasing use of drones in various industries and sectors, it is high time that the regulatory authorities come up with more detailed rules on use of drone in India covering the various aspects that are missing in the existing drone regulations. Let’s positively wait for the future of drones in India, before it is too late!
Adv Pooja Rambhia
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position. Information herein is for general information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. The author of this article shall not be liable in any manner whatsoever for any action taken relying on information contained here. Readers must seek independent legal advice and not act upon information contained herein.