India’s ambitious plans for a drones policy built on a so-called digital sky framework has hit a roadblock over clearances from the ministry of home affairs and various defence establishments. This will further delay regulations that are already behind schedule and may even end up amending some of the proposed rules.
Most countries including Australia, China, US, Canada and the UK already have rules for drones in place and modify them when required. In comparison, the Indian drone regulations are not that strict but systems like the digital sky are way more complex than what has attempted in other countries. For example, the US Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has tied up with private companies AirMap and Skyward to provide automated flight authorization for drones. Similarly, New Zealand and Japan also have an automated airspace management system in place for drones with the help of AirMap.
Digital sky delay
The latest set of delays will impact the rollout of an industry expected to generate millions of dollars in revenues and thousands of jobs.
The digital sky system envisioned a three-dimensional mapping of the skies and the ability to file digital flight plans through a dedicated portal by entering drone and pilot details as also the origin and destination coordinates. The flight approvals would be digital and faster than a system involving processing by humans. The traffic, being managed by a digital air traffic management system, would clear airspace according to the file flight plan filed, which also has to be downloaded into the drone software.
The biggest challenge with digital sky is the way in which registration, authentication, fleet management and flight operations all have to be integrated and automated. Another challenge was the multiple agencies and ministries that had to work in tandem to clear the draft regulations and then work together while issuing drone certifications, registrations and drone pilot licences.