Drones have become an integral part of almost every major industry. From construction to agriculture, several niche industries are making use of drones for surveys or surveillance. A decade ago it was an unusual sight to see an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) airborne but now drones are being called the future of transportation. In this rapidly increasing drone-race, many countries took a step to legalize drones and improve upon existing laws to facilitate better use of this technology. India, laid out its drone regulations in December 2018, thereby legalizing drones. However, to fly a drone in India, one must obtain a series of certificates and permissions. Most importantly, adhering to the NPNT compliance. As of now, the number of NPNT compliant drones in India is very limited.
A little about NPNT and its effects on the industry
NPNT (No-Permission-No-Takeoff) is the fundamental rule on which India’s drone regulation platform, Digital Sky is built. It simply states that a drone can only take-off if it has obtained ample permission from Digital Sky. Provided that pilots mention the time, date, purpose, altitude, etc. of the flight, 24 hours in advance. As the Indian drone industry, as well as the regulation board, are still in their nascent stages, the development and introduction of new drones in the market have been relatively slow. Strict regulations like these are forcing major drone companies to gauge their steps before introducing their drones in India.
DJI’s take on the issue
DJI’s drone series are the most popular all over the world. The Phantom and Mavic drones are some of the standard drones used by most professionals as well as amateurs. However, due to the nature of Indian drone laws, the company has decided not to manufacture drones that are NPNT compliant. In an official release on the company’s website, DJI claims the policies to be restrictive of drone flight. DJI has pointed out that NPNT restricts a lot of operational capabilities of a drone by censoring the location, time and flight path of the drone. DJI also estimates that due to densely populated areas, 50% of India’s landmass will fall under the No-Fly Zone.
Apart from these restrictions, operators will also have to apply for permission 24 hours prior to their drone operation. Thus, routine tasks like site inspection, wedding photography and several other commercial applications become tedious. The company further added that in case the drone operation does not occur due to natural conditions, the procedure has to be repeated all over again. This would make flying drones inaccessible to most operators.
No exemptions made
Moreover, the NPNT does not encompass any exemptions for rescue, police or security work. This makes a drone operation in a critical scenario hard to accomplish. DJI further stated that they would plan to introduce their drones in India once Digital Sky re-evaluates its regulations.
“India needs to set clear operational guidelines with drones addressing fundamental issues like how and when they can fly in controlled airspace or how close they can be to people. Other countries are tackling those issues directly, and India can too.” the statement reads. DJI urged the government to also exempt drones under 1 kg as they pose minimal security risks. The company hopes that India amends its drone laws to match global standards all the while keeping security intact. This might pave the way in the future for DJI drones in India.