While the focus lies on how drones in India are going to take off legally, it is important to understand the foundation of legal drone flight in India. Drones in India can only be flown if they abide by this one principle, which is known as the NPNT certificate for drones. Only if drone manufacturers can provide a certificate stating that their drone is NPNT compliant, drones can take flight. To get a clearer picture of what NPNT really is, we need to understand every aspect of it.

What is NPNT?

No Permission-No Takeoff (NPNT) is the foundation of legal drone flight in India. It is also a core element in the formation of the online web portal Digital Sky. The NPNT policy is a set of preflight permissions which all drones must strictly follow. According to this policy, drones can only be flown for the duration mentioned by the pilot and within the boundaries, it is intended to be flown in. Apart from these two criteria, a written notice is also required to be submitted to a local police station by the pilot. Only on successful completion of all the aforementioned permissions, a drone can take off. As mentioned earlier, Digital Sky is built upon the principles of NPNT. This means that only if Digital Sky approves a drone for a flight it can take off. Digital Sky is the link between drone pilots and the authorities. So if a drone is NPNT compliant and has all the necessary permissions, Digital Sky would then approve the drone for a flight just like how air traffic controllers approve airplanes to take off after running the necessary security checks.

Shortcomings with the NPNT policy

The No Permission-No Takeoff is a strong policy to monitor the use of drones but drones in India as of now are still not able to take off due to this rule. Despite the web portal and policies being in place, there is still a massive ridge to overcome. NPNT compliancy is a certification which must be issued by the drone manufacturers for each of their drones. This is still en route and has not been achieved yet. A special drone lineup for India with the updated geofencing and regulations must be launched in order to proceed further. Without NPNT compliant drones, users cannot apply for a UIN or a UAOP and this has become a major roadblock.

What is Geofencing?

According to Drone Policy 1.0, the areas for drone flight is divided into three zones:

Red Zone: The areas flagged as the red zone are strictly prohibited for any drone.

Yellow Zone: This zone is classified as a restricted zone but only drones with adequate and limited permissions will be allowed in this airspace.

Green Zone:  This zone by default is a freely permitted zone for all drones and they can fly here without restriction but they do need to obtain documentation and the basic flight permissions as discussed earlier.

This mapping of flight zones is called geofencing. These zones are strict boundaries each drone must adhere to.

How Geofencing and the NPNT policy are connected

The NPNT policy states that drones must only be flown in permitted zones which are the green and yellow zones. Manually monitoring each drone’s geographical location is an impractical task and hence needs to be automated. If drones are NPNT compliant, they will automatically adhere to Geofencing and their software would not allow drones to cross the restricted areas. Policy compliance would also address another issue which is flight time.

In the upcoming year or two, the NPNT issue could be resolved and with it would come complete automation for the authorities. This way drones will be programmed to comply with the flight zones, flight times and possible legal barriers, making drone flying and monitoring a seamless process.

In part four of this Understanding Indian Drone Laws Series, we cover the missing elements in the Drone Policy 1.0 which are the supposed loopholes, causing a delay in legal drone flight in India.