In September 2021, the DGCA released an interactive airspace map for drones for the first time. Ever since the first Indian drone laws came out in 2018, the creation of green, yellow, and red zones had been discussed several times. However, only until now have these zones been defined and made accessible for everyone. India’s latest drone regulation came out on August 25th, 2021. The new rules are quite liberal which may finally allow the Indian drone industry to flourish.
If you are a drone owner, chances are you might be unaware of the zones where you can operate your drone. DGCA’s interactive airspace map can help you with that. As a general rule of thumb, do not fly in the red and yellow zones. In this guide, we will break down how to use the airspace map to plan your next drone operation.
Note: Flying a drone is subject to the Drone Rules 2021. Therefore, do not fly a drone that weighs greater than 2kg without a drone pilot license. Additionally, irrespective of the drone weight, all drones must be registered and enlisted with the DGCA.
The Three Zones
The Indian airspace for drones is divided into three zones: Green, Yellow, and Red. As it can be inferred from the title, operations under the green zone do not require permission from the DGCA while those in yellow and red zones are strictly controlled.
Green Zone: Green zone is the airspace from the ground up to a vertical distance of 400 ft (120 meters). You can fly your drone in a green zone without the need for permission from the DGCA through Digital Sky.
Yellow Zone: A yellow zone is a controlled airspace. To fly in the yellow zone you would require permission from the air traffic control authority. A yellow zone is applicable for a vertical distance of 200 ft for up to 12 km from the perimeter of an operational airport. The provisions of a yellow zone are also applied above 400 ft.
Red Zone: Red zone is the restricted airspace where drone operations are not permitted unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ follow. Commercial or leisure drone operations in red zones are generally prohibited.
The Interactive Airspace Map
The interactive airspace map is available on the Digital Sky Website. Understandable, in dense urban environments, flying a drone is difficult and is associated with high risk. Therefore, most metropolitan cities fall under red and yellow zones. The further you go from the city center, the fewer the restrictions (in terms of the three zones). The airspace map may be slow to load, however, the tiles should clear up in a few seconds. This interactive map only displays the red and yellow zones. Anything outside the scope of these zones is the green zone.
To view the different zones select the layers icon on the top right of the map. In the layers panel, you will find options such as State, Airport Red, Airport Yellow [5-8 km], Airport Yellow [8-12 km], International Boundary, and Airspace Geozone. Select the Airport Red, both the Airport Yellow options, and the Airspace Geozone to view the red and yellow zones for every city.
If you zoom into a city, the zones are clearly visible. For instance, given below are the red and yellow zones for Bangalore city. As shown, the central city area and areas near airports are not open to drone operations.
Since Bangalore has several military airports, the flight restrictions are higher. However, in other cities, this may differ. As visible from the map, the outskirts of the city fall under a green zone where drone operations can be freely conducted.
Once you identify the zone where you can operate your drone, the next step is planning your flight. If you intend on conducting a commercial drone operation, you must have a valid drone pilot license. However, if you’re a new drone owner familiarize yourself with the regulations before your first flight here.