Drones are now legal in India | Everything you need to know
Things you need to know about the aviation ministry’s latest regulations about drones in India
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has recently released a regulation that makes flying drones legal in India with effect from December 1 this year. If you haven’t seen or read about it yet, here’s a link to the official announcement. Of course, like everything official – it’s quite lengthy with a lot of legal jargon involved. There are a bunch of rules and regulations, forms and permissions you need to get to legally fly a drone in India. And if you’re wondering how it affects you as a wedding photographer and what you need to do, don’t worry! We’re here to break it down for you.
The regulation has classified the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), or as we say the drone, into 5 categories based on the weight of the drone. Most drones used by wedding photographers (like the Phantom series and the Mavic series) fall under the ‘micro’ category which includes drones greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg in weight. These need to be registered, and there are a few things you need to know, so let’s dive right in.
#1 What are these regulations?
These are some basic set of rules set by the civil aviation ministry for the legal operation of drones in India. This is a significant step forward, and paves the way for drones to be flown in India legally without fear of prosecution by the authorities.
#2 Does it apply to me?
Yes. Wedding photographers use drones for cinematography like the Phantom 4 Pro / Mavic etc which falls in the micro category of drones under the regulation.
#3 Do I need a license?
Thankfully, no. You do not need an operator license or permit to fly drones under the micro category. You do, however, need other permits which we will get to in the following questions.
#4 Can I import a drone from abroad?
Yes, you can. You need to get the following done to legally import a drone (only after Dec 1)
- Apply to DCGA for an import clearance.
- Once you get the clearance, then apply for an Equipment Type
Approval (ETA) from Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing of the Department of Telecommunication.
#5 Can I legally buy a drone locally?
You can. You just need to apply for an Equipment Type
Approval (ETA) from Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing of the Department of Telecommunication, as mentioned above also.
#6 Do I need to register my drone? Or, what registration do I need to be concerned about?
The regulation does not give any guideline regarding the drone you already own. But if you import one or buy one locally in the future, you need to apply for a Unique Identification Number (UIN) for the specific make and model of the drone. One UIN is assigned to one drone only. You can request it as an individual owner of the equipment or as a company. You also need to get a security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs once you’ve received a UIN for the drone. The approved drone will then need the UIN number (similar to a license plate for a car) on it.
#7 What is Digital Sky Platform?
All applications will be processed through the online Digital Sky Platform and permits will be given digitally through an automated process. This platform isn’t live yet, so it’s hard to tell how easy or how difficult this will be.
#8 Do I need permission for every flight? I heard that all drones need to have a SIM card and need permission every time they fly.
Yes, the drones are required to have a SIM card for app-based real-time tracking.
As of now, the users under the micro category will need to intimate the local police office 24 hours prior to actual drone usage. You also need to apply for permission every time you need to fly the drone. The requests will be made through the Digital Sky Platform.
(Editor’s Note: This rule seems highly restrictive, so we’re waiting to see how this evolves. It is also unclear how the online platform will operate or how the permissions will be screened.)
#9 Can I shoot anytime?
The DCGA has also placed a limitation on the timings that you can fly a drone in. It can only be operated from sunrise to sunset within visual line of sight and no drones can fly at night. (Editor’s Note: Again, as most drones can fly very safely at night, we’re waiting to see how this rule evolves. Most weddings happen at night in North India, so no-flying at night is a serious killjoy).
#10 Can I shoot anywhere?
The areas around airports, near the international borders, Vijay Chowk in Delhi, State Secretariat Complex in state capitals, strategic locations, vital military installations are no drone zones. Most other areas seem to be okay.
#11 Can I travel in an aircraft with a drone?
The regulation, as of now, has no directive on travelling with a drone. (Editor’s Note: as of right now, many WPAI members travel with a drone in carry-on luggage without any incident).
#12 Are these regulations final?
No. This is the first in a series of regulations from the aviation ministry. We expect more guidelines or changes to come out soon.
#12 Do I need to do anything right away?
No. The regulations come in effect from December 1. So any and all permits, applications, and forms will need to be submitted from then.
There are obviously more guidelines in the ministry released document, but these are the only ones that concern wedding photographers as of now. In the coming months, the ministry will come up with more and detailed mandates for flying of drones. We will update you as and when more news and directives are released, so stay tuned to our blog. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us.