Ever since the UAS Rules 2021, India’s latest drone regulations, were finalized in March this year, there has been some confusion in the FPV community. The newly finalized rules did not address FPV drones or any laws surrounding them. Therefore, we reached out to Karan Kamdar, the Indian Drone Racing League (IDRL) founder for more clarity on this subject. Here’s all you need to know about FPV drones in India:
The UAS Rules 2021 : Nano Drones
Technically, all FPV drones fall under the Nano classification of drones. There are four classes of drones:
- Nano: Below 250g
- Micro: Greater than 250g and less than 2kg
- Small: Greater than 2kg and less than 25kg
- Medium: Greater than 25kg and less than 150kg
- Large: Greater than 150kg
Since FPV drones need to be light, they are manually configured and thus are made in order to stay in the sub 250g bracket. However, the UAS Rules 2021 mentioned that if any nano drone flies faster than 15 m/s or at an altitude greater than 15m, it would be classified as a micro drone. This clause is the primary cause of concern for FPV drones. Since FPV drones are made to be flown at speeds greater than 15 m/s, they defy these parameters by default.
The second part of this clause states that all micro drones must have NPNT compliance hardware, need to clear compliance testing, have geo-fencing, and get certified from an NACB-approved certification body. Levying such hardware requirements on a sub 250g drone would not practically work. Adding an NPNT module and other hardware sensors would weigh the drone down, making it unsuitable for FPV activity. Thus, the question remains, how can one go about flying an FPV drone in India?
A Legal Grey Area
As mentioned above, FPV drones cannot be converted to a Micro classification, and neither do they exactly follow the Nano classification parameters. Karan Kamdar, the founder of IDRL, stated that these drones fall in a sort of grey area that has not yet been addressed. Legal frameworks surrounding FPV drones are not just absent from UAS Rules 2021, but also previous drafts.
According to him, one can fly an FPV drone in a safe manner by informing the local law enforcement authorities. The government’s drone registration platform, Digital Sky, is also not fully functional and is still under development. Therefore, at present, this appears to be the only possible legal step that FPV drone pilots can take. Additionally, some precautions that can be taken are:
- Do not fly in crowded areas or above people.
- Always fly the drone in visual line of sight.
- Fly the drone in a controlled environment.
- Do not fly the drone near an airport or manned aircraft.
- Do not fly the drone from a moving vehicle.
Another important aspect to consider is the enforcement of the UAS Rules. Although the rules have been finalized, it will take some time for them to be implemented and enforced throughout the country.
FPV Pilot Training
Flying an FPV drone is entirely different from flying a regular photography drone. FPV drones have very responsive controls and require a certain level of skill to operate. Thus, beginner pilots need to practice and train to master flying FPV drones. However, there is no official DGCA-approved FPV pilot school. DGCA has approved several ‘drone training’ institutes but they do not cater to the needs of FPV pilots.
Mr. Kamdar stated that IDRL (Indian Drone Racing League) is a great platform for this purpose. Pilots can enroll at IDRL for free and become a part of the Indian FPV community. Here pilots from all skill levels can interact with one another. IDRL hosts a range of different events throughout the year. This gives pilots the opportunity to participate in competitive FPV flying and hone their skills. To join IDRL visit their page here.
As of now, there are about 3,500 pilots registered with the IDRL. They configure their drones, build teams and take part in events. There are plenty of local shops available in every city from where pilots can purchase parts and configure their own drones. FPV drone configuration will be covered in a future guide.
FPV Drone Simulators
Another ingenious way to practice FPV flying is through FPV simulators. To read about the best drone simulator software on the market, head here. Drone simulators are realistic virtual environments in which pilots can train on custom or pre-designed drones. These simulators are enriched with accurate drone physics and instant response times to provide the most realistic experience possible. Velocidrone is one of the widely used drone simulators. It is used throughout the world by major drone racing leagues. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IDRL has begun conducting its FPV events on Velocidrone.
To get started pilots must have a desktop or laptop with ample configuration (check the software’s system requirements) to run the Velocidrone simulator. Secondly, pilots must have a Velocidrone software license, FPV goggles, and a drone controller. IDRL launched the Stay at Home series, which is a series of drone racing events that pilots can participate in through the Velocidrone simulator. After registering for the event, participants join a gaming server consisting of 6 pilots. Then, they have to clear group stages and various knockout stages on pre-designed racing circuits. To participate in IDRL’s race events, register here.
The FPV drones market is set to grow exponentially in the coming years. As the drone infrastructure matures and develops, so will the demand for FPV drones. Mr. Kamdar also stated that the government is supportive of FPV drone racing. The Telangana government had booked an IDRL race event at one of their stadiums prior to the pandemic. Amendments in the current drone regulations could solve the problem of the legal grey area and possibly give a massive boost to the FPV drone industry in India.