A drone camera has become an integral part of any photographer or videographer’s arsenal. Using drones for shooting videos or clicking images is a common occurrence now. Be it for ad shoots, wedding shoots or leisure photography, drones are being used for capturing aerial shots. It’s impressive how they’ve become extremely popular because flying drones remains illegal in India.
Only a handful of government companies, law enforcement agencies are defence forces are legally allowed to use a drone. Estimates point that there are over 40,000 “civilian” drones in Indian skies. A report in The Economic Times stated how Indians have spent close to Rs 40 crore in the last two years on purchasing civilian drones.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) clearly states that unmanned aircrafts – drones per se – are illegal in the country as they pose a threat to “national security. DGCA is expected to issue remote pilot license (RPL) – on the lines of CPL and PPL – to civilians who wants to fly drones.
However, if you follow certain procedures you can still obtain permission to fly a drone in India. Here’s how you can fly a drone but before we get into that let’s start with buying a drone.
How do you buy a drone?
Strangely, while flying drones is illegal one can purchase them in India. Although you will have to purchase the drone in India only as getting them from abroad is a strict no-no. Customs department’s rules and regulations have drones listed under “Prohibited goods” so do not attempt to get them from outside India. Civil drones can be bought online and cost anywhere between Rs 2000 to Rs 50,000 and more. Brands like DJI, GoPro are some of the renowned names in the drone category. Depending on why you need to purchase a drone, you can browse across various price points and get the drone which is suitable for your requirements.
How do you fly a drone in India?
The draft policy of the DGCA on unmanned aircrafts — mainly drones — has a clear set of guidelines listed for flying drones. The draft policy was formed and released in 2016 and you should give it a good look before buying a drone.
The policy, to begin with, lists what are the types of drones. According to the policy, there are four types of drones: micro (weigh less than 2kg); mini (more than 2g and less than 20kg); small (more than 20 kg but less than 150kg) and large (more than 150 kg).It doesn’t matter what drone you buy, it is mandatory to seek permission from the authorities before using them.
Registering for a drone
The first step is getting your device registered with a unique identification number or UIN. For getting a UIN, you need to have an address proof, a permit from the police and the department of telecom. Once you’ve submitted the relevant documents, you will get a UIN which needs to be marked on a fire-proof plate. The plate is installed on your device before you are allowed to take it in the air.
Permissions to be sought
It’s a cumbersome process to get a drone in the air and there’s a host of permits you need to have in place. Firstly, a permission from a civil or defence Air Navigation Service (ANS) provider. Before you fly off a drone from any property, you need to have permission from the property or land owner as well. You also have to seek a security clearance from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security of India. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a recreational drone or commercial drone, all the permissions are mandatory. Also note, you cannot transfer the drone papers in a friend or relative’s name.
The DGCA draft guidelines also state that drone owners need to have insurance with the liability that they might incur for any damage.