With the advancement in technology, new and fascinating gadgets emerge on the market. A drone, in a technological context, is an unmanned aircraft. Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASes). Essentially, a drone is a flying robot. The aircrafts may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS.

 

TYPES OF DRONE:

The DCGA has divided the drones into 5 categories based on their maximum take-off weight:

  1. NANO: less than or equal to 250 grams
  2. MICRO: greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg
  3. MINI: greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg
  4. SMALL: greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg
  5. LARGE: greater than 150 kg

UAVs were most often associated with the military. Drones are now also used in a wide range of civilian roles ranging from search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring and fire fighting to personal drones and business drone-based photography, as well as videography, agriculture and even delivery services.

Drone use is allowed in India, but there are several drone laws that need to be followed when flying in the country. Before flying a drone in India, there arefew poins we shold keep in mind.

  1. Don’t fly Drone
  • Over densely populated area
  • Within 5 km of airport
  • Within 5 km where aircrafts are operating
  • In sensitive area like govt. or military area
  • Within 50km from border
  • More than 500 meters into the sea, from the coastline.
  • 5km of Vijay Chowk in Delhi
  • Over National park or Wildlife Sanctuaries
  • From mobile platform like moving vehicle, ship of aircraft
  1. You must be at least 18 years old and have completed a training course

Though the  training requirements for remote pilots are not applicable for micro category UA & recreational flying.

  1. Fly your drone in day light and in good weather as well as within visual line of sight
  2. A permit is required for commercial drone as well as recreational use in India.
  3. The owner/operator shall be responsible for the safe custody, security and access control of the UAS. In case of loss of UA, the operator shall report immediately to local administration/ police, BCAS and DGCA
  4. Operator shall ensure that no Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) is caused to air traffic operations and air navigation equipment.

Registration of Drones

The remote pilot must acquire the same level of training as the aircrew of a manned aircraft or a private pilot license holder. Such a requirement is unreasonable and may give rise to a situation, wherein despite legalizing civil use of drones in India we won’t find drone activities carried out due to the lack of trained remote pilots.

Drones are broadly considered to fit the definition of aircraft as defined under rule 3(7) of the Aircraft Rules’ 1937 [5]. Rule 30 specifies that only those aircraft which satisfy the following conditions can be granted a certificate of registration of:

  • Which are owned by citizens of India
  • Company or corporation having its registered office in India and whose principal base of operation is within India.
  • The Central Government or the State Governments or any governmental companies can get their aircrafts registered.
  • Any company having its registered office outside India can get its aircraft registered if the aircraft is to be leased to any person falling in the first two categories.
  • Any person who is not a citizen of India but owns an aircraft or drone can get it registered to run a business in India.
  • Any company or corporation registered outside India but carrying business within India can also get its aircraft registered.

 

PROCEDURE TO GET THE PERMIT

The use of drones was mainly for military or defense purposes. Since gradually the purpose of its use shifted and drones were used for commercial purposes, the government saw a security threat from these UAVs thereby banning their flight without approval.

Step 1: ISSUE OF UNIQUE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (UIN)

The UIN can be granted only to: a) a citizen of India; or b) a company or a body corporate provided that: i) it is registered and has its principal place of business within India; ii) its chairman and at least two-thirds of its directors are citizens of India; and, iii) its substantial ownership and effective control is vested in Indian nationals;

Following documents are required to be submitted to DGCA for issue of UIN:

  1. Address of Operator along with contact details with valid identity proof. In case of a company/organization, TIN number will be accepted;
  2. Purpose of operation of UA;
  3. Specification of UAS (manufacturer name, type, model number, year of manufacture, weight and size, type of propulsion system, flying capabilities in terms of maximum endurance, range and height, etc. including details of equipment);
  4. Verification of character and antecedents of the operator and remote pilots from local sub-divisional police office;
  5. Permission for all frequencies used in UAS operations from Department of Telecommunication (Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing);
  6. Copy of Unmanned Aircraft Flight Manual (UAFM);
  7. Copy of Manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines for UAS;

Step 2: ISSUANCE OF UAOP

The operator having an UIN intended to conduct civil operation of a UA at or above 200ft AGL in uncontrolled airspace shall submit his application for UAOP to DGCA along with following documents:

  1. Permission from ANS provider (civil/defense);
  2. Permission of the land / property owner (when operated below 200 ft AGL and area used for take-off and landing of UA);
  3. Details of Remote Pilot(s) and training records;
  4. Insurance details if applicable;
  5. Security Clearance of firms/ operator of UA from BCAS

The application shall be submitted at least 90 days prior to actual conduct of UA operations to Director Regulations & Information (DRI), O/o DGCA for issue of UAOP

The UAOP shall contain at least the following information:

  1. Name and location (main place of business) of the operator;
  2. Date of issue and period of validity;
  3. Scope and description of the type of operations authorized;
  4. Area of operation;
  5. Type(s) of UA authorized for use;
  6. Unique Identification Number (UIN) of UA;
  7. Special limitations, if any (e.g. not over populous areas, etc.);
  8. List of approved personnel for operation of UAS (security clearance of personnel will be required); i) Insurance validity with respect to all liabilities;

Import permission shall be obtained from DGCA based on which DGFT shall provide licence for import of UAS

OTHER LAWS RELATED TO DRONE IN INDIA

Section 287 of the IPC talks of “Negligent conduct on machinery.” When anyone uses any machine in a rash or negligent manner which endangers human life, they will be held liable for, “Negligent conduct with respect to machinery.” This section will be applicable in situations where a person if flying a drone and there occurs a technical failure because of which the drone crashes, thus causing risk to others. The punishment under this section is an imprisonment for six months with a fine of INR 1000.

Section 336 of the IPC talks of “Act endangering life or personal safety of others”. Whoever does any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with impris­onment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred and fifty rupees, or with both. [3]

Section 268 pf the IPC talks of “Public Nuisance.” A person is guilty of a public nuisance who does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right.

A drone might cause hurt, as defined under section 319 of the IPC“Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person is said to cause hurt.”

Along with these offenses, there is a high chance of criminal trespass as well as breach of privacy of a person. Drones with a camera can be used to film people against their will or even bug them thereby causing a breach of their privacy

Criminal Cases – most of the criminal cases tend to be prosecuted under the state law equivalent of careless and reckless endangerment or something along those lines. The other batch of prosecutions has to do with violations of exporting technology associated with military drones.

CASE LAWS:

In India, no landmark case has taken place relating to drone

Federal Circuit Court

Taylor v. FAA I (Really 3 cases. Court consolidated them along.) –  Adjudicated. Taylor beat the FAA. D.C. Circuit held the drone registration rules were illegally created.

EPIC v. FAA  II (2016) – Currently being litigated. It has been consolidated with the fourth Taylor case.

Federal District Court

Reichert v. FAA – Currently being litigated. Class action lawsuit against the FAA seeking to destroy the FAA registry and get the money back to all those who have registered.

Boggs v. Meredith case in the federal Western District Court of Kentucky which was dismissed. Boggs’ drone was shot down by Meredith. Boggs sued in federal court claiming the drone was in navigable airspace (which means he was not trespassing in Meredith’s airspace) and was entitled to compensation. The court dismissed the case because the court did not have the subject matter jurisdiction to decide the case and the case should be resolved in Kentucky state court.

Sives v. DJI  – Class Action lawsuit against DJI regarding software update that allegedly damaged the drones.

Justice Laub v. Nicholas Horbaczewski et al – Laub alleges that Horbaczewski breached a contract. They are demanding $9,900,000 from Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc.  Both Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc. have sued in New York state court asking for a declaration that Laub is not an owner of Drone Racing League.

United States v. Porrata – Defendant was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine for scamming investors with their sham drone manufacturing company.

Drone Litigation in State Courts

California

Telling v. DJI – Class action lawsuit against DJI in Los Angeles Superior Court

City of San Francisco v. Lily – The district attorney for San Francisco is suing the company Lily for false advertising and unfair business practices.

City of Los Angeles v. Arvel Chapel – Not Guilty. Criminal prosecution by the city under their city ordinance. The jury held Arvel not guilty.

Joe v. McBay – Small claims case. McBay shot down Joe’s drone. The judge ordered McBay to pay for the shot-down drone.

Pituch v. Perfect Event Inc. – Pi Kappa Phi of the University of Southern California hired Perfect Event to throw a party. One of the two defendants hired the drone operator who crashed the drone into the plaintiff’s head. She is suing both defendants for negligence and premises liability.

Reference links:

  1. https://internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com/definition/drone
  2. http://mydronelab.com/blog/what-is-a-drone.html
  3. https://www.dronezon.com/learn-about-drones-quadcopters/what-is-drone-technology-or-how-does-drone-technology-work/
  4. https://uavcoach.com/drone-laws/
  5. https://foxnomad.com/2017/07/25/map-shows-drone-laws-every-country-world-updated-regularly/
  6. http://www.dgca.nic.in/misc/draft%20circular/AT_Circular%20-%20Civil_UAS(Draft%20April%202016).pdf
  7. http://www.nishithdesai.com/fileadmin/user_upload/pdfs/Research_Papers/Unravelling_The_Future_Game_of_Drones.pdf?pdf=Research_Papers
  8. Image Source: https://www.swellpro.com/waterproof-splash-drone.html