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NEW DELHI: Drones may soon be doing doorstep delivery of packages you ordered on e-commerce sites. The government on Wednesday proposed to allow commercial use of drones, said aviation secretary R N Choubey.
The ministry released draft rules for drone use which, on the one hand allow children to fly small drones (weighing less than 250 grams) without registering them or requiring a licence for them. And on the other, says aviation minister Jayant Sinha, permit “air rickshaws” when that technology is available.
However, the draft rules list out some areas where drone flying by private individuals is prohibited due to aviation safety and security reasons.
These are: within 5-km radius of an airport; within 50 km from international border and beyond 500 metres into sea along coastline; within 5-km radius of Vijay Chowk in Delhi; from a moving vehicle, ship or aircraft; over densely populated areas and places where emergency operations are underway.
The draft rules divide drones into five categories, based on weight. The lightest are below 250 grams and called Nano drones. And there are four categories above this: 250 gram to 2 kg; 2-25 kg; 25-150 kg and above 150 kg. Except Nano and those operated by government security agencies, all other categories of drones will need to be registered with the DGCA which will give each of them a unique identification number.
And except for the lightest two categories, people operating heavier drones will need an “unmanned aircraft operator permit.” All drones will need to be flown below 200 feet.
Barring Nano drones, all other heavier drones will need to have anti-collision lights and return to home option. “We are working on technology to neutralise rogue drones. We are also looking at technology which does not allow drones to deviate from the cleared route even if the operator tries to do that,” secretary Choubey said. The ministry is also finalising which agency will be responsible for destroying a rogue zone. “Drones are a very dynamic and evolving technology.
We have to be nimble footed in having regulations that enable its optimal use as the technology evolves. People are working on ‘air rickshaws’,” Sinha said.
While air rickshaws may be in distant future, the use by e-commerce sites for doorstep delivery may be a low hanging fruit which may soon be plucked. “These rules allow companies to deliver goods at doorstep provided they follow the rules prescribed under the rules. Both the aviation ministers wanted it to be open for all to use, including businesses,” said Choubey.
The secretary said the final policy on drones may be out by the year-end as the draft gives 30 days for inviting public comments which are then evaluated.