How India plans to manage its growing drone air traffic in the years to come

The Ministry of Civil Aviation released a draft policy Tuesday to develop an air traffic management system for civilian drones or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The draft policy, called UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Ecosystem, mainly applies to drones flying 1,000 feet above ground level in uncontrolled airspaces.

It is expected to coordinate drone flight paths, manage traffic and provide weather and terrain data as an “extension of the current Air Traffic Management (ATM) Services”.

“Drones will soon need to fly alongside manned aircrafts and high levels of aviation safety should be maintained in such scenarios,” Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation Amber Dubey told ThePrint.

In June, the government had issued the Draft Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2020, which if passed, will replace the existing Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) enacted in 2018.

Unlike CAR, the Draft UAS Rules are more exhaustive and make a clear distinction between drone regulations and other regulations that apply to conventional manned aviation.

What are drones and who can fly them

A drone is an aerial device that can navigate without a human on board or beyond line of sight. In India, drones are used for entertainment and recreational purposes, wedding photography and research but cannot be flown in ‘No Fly Zones’ such as areas near airports, international borders, State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations, etc.

There are three kinds of drones — Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAs) piloted from a remote pilot station, Model Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems used for educational or experimental purposes only within visual line of sight and Autonomous Unmanned Aircraft System that does not require pilot intervention.

Based on weight, ‘nano’ drones are less than or equal to 250gm, ‘micro’ drones are between 250gm-2kg, ‘small’ drones are between 2-25kg, ‘medium’ drones are between 25-150kg and ‘large’ drones are greater than 150kg.

Nano drones are usually the size of a human hand and are flown indoors.

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