India: An Analysis Of The Regulatory Framework Of The Unmanned In India

Last Updated: 29 June 2016
Article by Purvasha Mansharamani and Sheniza Farid


In an age of rapid technological innovation and advancement, new technologies are not only pioneers but also spawn new issues particularly legal. One of these new technologies with legal ramifications in the 21st Century is Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) since they have the potential to change the way governments and businesses operate. UAS previously have been used for the military only but currently, UAS are being sold commercially for example, there are eight manufacturers of UAS in India which are Aurora Integrated Systems (TATA), Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Idea Forge, Hindustan Aeronautics, Kadet Defence Systems, National Aerospace Laboratories, OM UAV Systems and Speck Systems.

Given the growth potential of this nascent industry, governments around the world have developed UAS regulations for civil use. India initially banned the use of UAS since the current aircraft rules did not accommodate unmanned systems. In April, the DGCA finally submitted draft regulations to the relevant ministries in order to incorporate regulations arising out of the use of UAS.

The paper will firstly provide a brief overview of the draft regulations. Secondly, the shortcomings of the draft regulations will be addressed by referring to expert opinions on the Draft Guidelines. Finally, it will conclude by suggesting factors that need to be considered and incorporated in the upcoming rules due in July 2016 to ensure the regulations by DGCA are effective.

According to the DGCA "The UAS consists of an Unmanned Aircraft (UA), a Remote Pilot Station (RPS), Command and Control (C2) Link, a maintenance system and an operating personnel. Unmanned aircraft are either pilotless or do not carry pilot(s) on board. Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft are various types of unmanned aircraft."1 It further states that, civilian use of UAS entails "assessment of property and life in areas affected with natural calamities, surveys; critical infrastructure monitoring including power facilities, ports, and pipelines; commercial photography, aerial mapping, etc."2

The object of the DGCA is to regulate UAS operations in uncontrolled space and restrict their operations in controlled airspace. Furthermore, the use of UAS is subject to same rules that govern manned aircrafts in terms of safety assessment of launch and recovery sites.3

Brief Overview of the Regulations

  • The Draft guidelines further classify UAS into four categories based on their weight as Micro, Mini, Small & Large
  • There is a mandatory provision for all unmanned aircrafts to be operated in India to obtain a Unique Identification Number (UIN). Also all civil UA operations at or above 200 feet aboveground level in uncontrolled airspace for any purpose will require a UA Operator Permit (UAOP).
  • Entities which operate below 200 feet aboveground level in uncontrolled airspace and clear of notified prohibited, restricted and danger areas as well as Temporary Segregated Areas (TSA) and Temporary Reserved Areas (TRA) do not require UAOP from DGCA, instead the operator is required to obtain permission & clearances from local administration. Model aircraft (defined in the guidelines as "Unmanned Aircraft (UA) without payload used for recreational purposes only.") operating below 200 feet aboveground level in uncontrolled airspace & indoor UA only for recreational purposes will also not require UAOP from DGCA.
  • Only Indian citizens or a company with majority of their business in India with substantial ownership of Indian nationals can obtain UAOP. UAOP is under the direct control of DGCA and subject to cancellation and suspension. Moreover, it will be valid only for two years and is non-transferrable.
  • Operational Requirements:

    International operations of civil UAS (flying across the territory) and/or over water shall be strictly prohibited. The UA shall not be flown over the entire air space over the territory of Delhi (30km radius from Rashtrapati Bhavan) and areas falling within 50 km from the international borders. Also, UA (unmanned aircraft) shall not be flown over other sensitive locations viz. nuclear stations, military facilities and strategic locations4.

Opinion of the experts

A few experts observe that the Draft Guidelines are a positive and necessary step by the DGCA for instance Rajiv Chib, Director of Aerospace and Defence at PwC India states that the usage of UAS is huge in various avenues for example "commercial photography, policing duties, and survey of land, rivers and industrial facilities." 5 Hence, the wide application of UAS necessitate the creation of policy to monitor their use particularly because many potential customers were wary in terms of using UAS commercially due to the lack of regulations and ambiguity regarding the procedure for obtaining permits.6

Another expert Colonel Zia, states that "security should be paramount, and draws a parallel between the US gun regulations, and UAVs, if not regulated. "If not controlled, it will be like the US gun law. Till the time the government realises the harm in it, the mafia controlling it will have created a strong lobby which can have detrimental effect."7

The authors having gone through the guidelines believe that the following points need to be given more importance to ensure that the guidelines have a stronger impact.

  1. Liability

    In the present draft there is no distinction of liability based on weight of the UAS. In the event of a mishap, UAS (light weight or heavy weight) will be subject to same requirements; ideally lighter drones should be subject to less stringent requirements since generally they will cause less damage as compared to heavier drones in the event of a collision.
  2. Privacy

    Given the burgeoning technology, the DGCA should account for the evolution of UAS technology and update their policy/rules accordingly keeping in mind the rapid pace at which technology is advancing to ensure that all civil rights and liberties are protected and especially privacy issues and protection of data which is collected are handled efficiently.
  3. Punishments/ Fines

    The current rules delegate the punishment and fines for violators to the courts however; stricter fines and punishments should be imposed on violators to deter them from breaking the rules established in order to make them effective.

Reference can be taken from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which proposed its biggest fine ever of $1.9 million against aerial photography company SkyPan International for illegal drone flights in the busy airspace above New York and Chicago in 20158. US on 21st June 2016 came out with rules for new commercial small UAS, violation of the requirements under this rule could expose the flyer for penalties under Part 107 which will have effect from August.


The regulations are a necessary step as civil use will be beneficial in a variety of aspects. Especially after recording incidents of individuals being arrested under 336 of IPC for flying drones without permissions. However, the proposed regulations need to be more comprehensive to have a positive impact on the industry and DCGA should allocate harsher punishments and heavier fines for violators. Moreover, as it is aptly contended by various experts that the regulations are necessary to monitor the UAS to ensure security and safety but DGCA should not intervene to such an extent that it restrains the growth of the market by deterring commercial activity altogether.9


[1] Guidelines for obtaining Unique Identification Number (UIN) & Operation of Civil Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), Air Transport Circular XX of 2016, Government of India Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation available at

[2] See supra 1

[3] For Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), Wg Cdr BS Nijjar, writes "Regulating the Unmanned" available at

[4] See Supra 1

[5] For Deccan Herald, Furquan Moharkan writes "Manning unmanned aerial vehicles", available at

[6] See Supra 5

[7] For Business Standards, Amber Dubey writes "Guidelines for flying UAVs: Good beginning but guidelines need to be liberalized", available at

[8] For CNET, Stephan Shankland writes "FAA seeks $ 1.9 M fine against drone photography company" available at

[9] See Supra 5

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions